Aug 22, 2016

As IoT Goes Mainstream, Focus Turns to Device Security

According to a recent report from Statista, the number of connected devices in use around the world is expected to reach 50.1 billion by the year 2020. In other words, enough to provide every person on the planet with six connected devices.

As the number of devices continues to grow, they will become more sophisticated and interoperable, performing new functions across all industries and consumer markets. From personal wearable devices and household appliances, to commercial applications and manufacturing tools, the Internet of Things is poised to fundamentally change how we work, live and play.

However, while IoT industry leaders may gush about the possibilities of an increasingly connected world, there is another, more sinister, element to consider – hackers.

To a hacker, every connected device is a potential doorway and – until now – many of those doors have been left wide open. According to mobile security firm AdaptiveMobile, 80 percent of devices currently deployed do not have adequate security measures in place to prevent data breaches.

This means that four out of five personal devices are vulnerable to attack. Hospitals and healthcare organizations that deploy connected devices risk exposing patient health records or having devices hacked. Smart city applications could give hackers access to energy grids, water systems and government agency networks.

Fortunately, attempts to secure the IoT are finally starting to pick up speed, thanks – in no small part – to the proliferation of LTE cellular connectivity. LTE is able to provide advanced encryption technology that exceeds the security features of alternative technologies, including:

– Airlink encryption between the user equipment and the network, encrypting data before communication takes place.

– Verification systems that ensure the signal has not been modified.

– Longer bit keys that make breaking through the security algorithm even harder.

– Mutual authentication checks on the part of both the network and user equipment to confirm identities.

In addition to these security features, LTE operates over a broader range which supports the interoperability of a greater number of devices. Unifying devices under fewer network connections decreases the number of ways that hackers can gain access to them.

Another development to enhance the security of IoT devices has been the growth of the Platform as a Service (PaaS) industry. PaaS enables users to develop, run and manage applications without managing any infrastructure. PaaS provides an opportunity to create a unified system under which to build your network of connected devices, more seamlessly integrating software upgrades and security patches to counteract emerging cyber threats.

According to research firm Gartner, worldwide IoT security spending is expected to increase 23.7% in 2016, to a total of $348 million in. By 2018 that figure is anticipated to grow to $547 million. Judging by this investment, it is clear that the security of the IoT is being taken seriously as connected devices begin to be integrated into our critical infrastructure.