Gartner predicts that by the year 2020, 26 billion devices will be connected to the Internet. All of these devices will make up the “things” of the oft-discussed Internet of Things (IoT). And the use of these connected devices, which can all communicate with each other, continues to expand. Even industries and communities that we don’t typically associate with technology are starting to use IoT-enabled devices. For example, developers are creating a way for farmers to track sheep with digital collars, which is just one of the technological innovations coming to the farming industry.

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If everyone from farmers to business executives will be using devices and products connected to the IoT, there needs to be a way to keep everything secure. But with such a large number of “things,” IT security professionals will require a very different approach to security. We need to place more emphasis on identity if we hope to keep the IoT secure.

Incorporating Identity into IoT Security

User identity is nothing new, but to secure the IoT, we should focus on the identity of devices. This will enable security professionals to analyze device behavior and respond to unusual or suspicious activity. Identity is already at the very heart of everything the IoT will become. For example, a freighter’s engines are composed of expensive components, which are difficult to maintain. To optimize its lifespan and eliminate unnecessary downtime, an engine manufacturer might soon be giving each component its own unique identity and tracking each one from initial manufacturing to final replacement. This identity will not just improve efficiency—it will provide the trusted security tool we need in the new IoT era.

This identity factor is critical because of the two ways IoT security considerations differ from those linked to traditional device connections:

  1. The number of devices and complexity of interactions: The volume of communication occurring between billions of IoT devices will be unprecedented. Because it is so different from anything we’ve seen before, it’s difficult to plan ahead. Industry experts and government officials are considering the potential security implications and are making efforts to ensure that devices are as secure as possible. However, we will see cybercriminals targeting and exploiting any new potential weaknesses, which makes tracking devices by identity essential.
  2. The nature of IoT devices: IoT devices are different from mobile phones in significant ways—and are radically different from traditional devices such as desktops, servers, and routers that make up the backbone of our current Internet. Most significantly, each IoT device will be different from the next. The heat sensor in that freighter’s engine will be completely different from a delivery truck’s GPS tracker. And while these widespread devices can give us valuable security information, we will have to know exactly what kind of device it’s coming from in order for the information to have value to security experts.

The Scope of Security Threats

The arrival of the IoT will force us to interact with a large number of devices that are deeply embedded in our lives and the infrastructure around us. If we imagine the potential for security threats with the limited number of devices that we interact with today, think of the security threats that could result from the misuse of IoT-connected devices in the future. City-wide interruptions to critical services, entire regions losing power and massive breaches of personal data are all potential threats. The potential scope of threats to the IoT means it’s vital that security professionals consider how identity can help to manage these potential threats as individuals and organizations begin to expand their use of IoT technology.

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GeoffWebb
By: GeoffWebb
Jul 30, 2015
7:06 am
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