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Rethinking security for the Internet of Things
September 9th, 2016

Rethinking security for the Internet of Things

Bill Gaskill

“IoT is transforming the everyday physical objects that surround us into an ecosystem of information that will enrich our lives.”– Pricewaterhouse Coopers report, Sensing the Future of the Internet of...

“IoT is transforming the everyday physical objects that surround us into an ecosystem of information that will enrich our lives.”
– Pricewaterhouse Coopers report, Sensing the Future of the Internet of Things

What is the Internet of Things?

The twenty-first century has given rise to some fascinating concepts, but none so relevant and integral as the Internet of Things (IoT). The IoT is a concept formulated by British entrepreneur Kevin Ashton in 1999, describing the idea that physical objects and humans around the world are becoming increasingly interconnected due to the ability to view, consume, interact with, and purchase all manner of content, goods, and services via the Internet. Moreover, with the global dominance of such powerhouse corporations as Amazon, eBay, AliBaba, Craigslist, and more, it is not difficult to see that Ashton’s theory is based on more than a thin prediction.

However, the Internet of Things poses a whole host of new problems for the 2000s and 2010s.

Mike Gault, contributor at TechCrunch said, “Given that the number of connected devices is predicted to reach 20.8 billion by 2020, there’s an urgent need to fundamentally rethink security for an always connected, high-volume, decentralized world of machines.”

As the Internet evolves, so do hackers and fraudsters profiting from innocent bystanders and consumers. How, then, do we develop security to overcome these threats?

How are security needs changing with the Internet of Things?

Once upon a time, hackers mostly targeted larger networks and businesses to access and steal confidential and secure information. The only things at stake were data, documents, and a limited amount of communication between individuals and companies. Now, increasingly the rest of us are affected and targeted by hackers with malicious intent. In 2013, for example, the official Twitter of the Associated Press was hacked by the Syrian Electronic Army (SEA). SEA sent an ominous tweet announcing an explosion had occurred inside the White House. This was a hoax, but the American stock market plummeted nearly one percent in response to the tweet.

We now utilize a large number of devices and applications to control aspects of our lives once accomplished physically—from smart cars to iPhone-operated home security systems to grocery delivery to our door from Amazon. Incorporating all of these incredible systems into our lives comes with the risk of inviting hackers to access our privacy. Fraudsters can utilize an Amazon account to access our credit card information or remotely disable our security systems making robbery and break-ins easier.

How should we approach security?

Experts need to be more vigilant and proactive as users incorporate more smart devices into their daily lives. Engineers are beginning to establish security features in apps and devices as they are created. New technologies like hypervisors and microkernels compartmentalize electronic systems, permitting different aspects and components of phones and computers to fail without wreaking havoc on the entire app or device. This means hackers are less able to access entire troves of sensitive information if they successfully enter one part of an insecure account or system.

Final thoughts

The IoT is blurring the lines between the physical and the virtual. As the internet and everyday life become increasingly more integrated, we must rethink what it means to keep our accounts, money, and information safe and secure from access.

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