Much of the talk about the Internet of things focuses on such benefits for businesses as greater efficiencies and faster decision making, and the convenience that it will bring to consumers in their homes and work lives.
However, more attention recently is being paid to the questions of how to protect all those tens of billions of connected devices—from smartphones, tablets and cars to appliances, manufacturing systems and wearable devices—and the massive amounts of data passing between these intelligent systems over networks.
And that's a good thing, according to Liat Ben-Zur, senior director of product management at Qualcomm Connected Experiences and chairman of the AllSeen Alliance, a project under the Linux Foundation to create open-source technology for the Internet of things (IoT).
"Fundamentally, the issue of security—and also privacy—[has moved] to the forefront of the conversation" regarding IoT, Ben-Zur told eWEEK in a recent interview. "That's one thing that we really haven't seen being talked about enough."
Cisco Systems is forecasting there will be 50 billion connected devices by 2020 that will be sending data back and forth. Organizations will be able to capture this data, analyze it and quickly use it to make business decisions and create more efficient processes. Consumers will drive in cars that will constantly be sending and receiving data about roads, congestion and parking spaces, and use home devices that will turn on lights and get their morning coffee ready before they get out of bed.
However, security experts have warned that securing the 10 billion or so connected devices today is difficult, and exponentially increasing the number of such devices will only grow the "attack surface" available to hackers, which in turn could make the data running over the networks much more vulnerable.
"The IoT … should raise the hackles on every neck, given our current" security situation, Dan Geer, chief information security officer for venture capital firm In-Q-Tel, said during a conference on IoT security in May.
AllSeen's Ben-Zur said security and privacy will be key issues going forward as the IoT continues to grow and expand into almost every area of business and personal life. She pointed to the fact that currently, homes can have 30 or more devices and systems connected to the Internet, ramping up the number of avenues increasingly sophisticated cyber-criminals can use to get into the house and its most personal information. It's a dangerous proposition.
Vendors are beginning to take steps to address security on the IoT. For example, Cisco in March announced a competition that will offer up to $300,000 in prize money to people who develop the best IoT-related security technologies and approaches. And security experts are coming to such gatherings as the Security of Things Forum, which took place May 7 in Cambridge, Mass., an event sponsored by the IT security blog Security Ledger and aimed at addressing the issue of security in the IoT age.