Securing the Internet of Things

By Scardilli, Brandi | Information Today, June 2014 | Go to article overview

Securing the Internet of Things


Scardilli, Brandi, Information Today


Think of any everyday object in your home or business, and chances are it will have computing power within the next few years. Cisco, an enterprise solutions provider, predicts that there will be 50 billion connected devices in the world by 2020, including watches and refrigerators. "When you think about the internet over the last 25 years, the main focus has been about people-to-people communication and people's interactions with data. But over the last couple of years, we recently started to see devices or things getting connected and talking to each other. And in the process, we are seeing the number of devices connected skyrocketing," says Maciej Kranz, VP and general manager of Cisco's corporate technology group.

This shift is known as the Internet of Things (IoT), the idea that "there's no reason that almost every object in your life couldn't have a digital identity and the ability to interact with other objects," according to Sam Curry, chief strategy officer and chief technologist at RSA, the security division of cloud computing, Big Data, and IT solutions company EMC. Computers are now "more prevalent, more common, more distributed, and more powerful. So if you continue that trend, you start to see mundane, everyday objects become computing objects. You could think of it as more sophistication and intelligence being baked into everything."

Security Challenges

"Unfortunately, every new technological development usually comes with a new set of security threats," says Dick O'Brien, senior information developer at Symantec, a business security and management company (symantec.com/connect/blogs/ internet-things-new-threats-emerge-connected-world). "Most consumers are now very aware that their computer could be targeted with malware. There is also growing awareness that the new generation of smartphones are also vulnerable to attack. However, few people are aware of the threat to other devices."

For example, Kranz predicts that every new car will be part of the IoT by 2017. "How do you prevent the hackers from hacking into your car, and suddenly taking over your car, and speeding it up to 120 miles per hour? How do you prevent a hacker from planting a malware in your car, and the malware will start stealing your personal information? ... So in this case, there are very new approaches to security that are required."

When interconnected devices talk to each other, "they're moving information about you around," says Kevin Bailey, head of market strategy at Clearswift, which helps organizations with information management and critical information protection. He believes that one of the base requirements for securing the IoT will be protecting intellectual property and personal information.

"[W]e've gone from a world where a few million people had one system each, trying to access a simple set of services, to one where there are going to be dozens of devices, and around every person, and billions of people, all trying to connect in ways that aren't predictable ahead of time," says Curry.

Security Strategies

Some companies are already working to meet the challenges of IoT security. Clearswift tracks the actions of hackers who are either attempting to extract company information from a secure system or introduce malware into a system. When an organization's usage rights policies are breached, Clearswift removes the offending text. "If somebody wants to send in some malicious code to affect the system, we would identify that and remove those pieces of content, put the document back together again, and then continue it through" to the recipient, says Bailey.

RSA has four main functions as the security division of EMC. First, it helps businesses set up security command centers. "[I]t's about being a step ahead of the bad guys. We help companies in particular find bad guys in their networks and root them out," says Curry. Second, it provides authentication solutions to protect against identity theft. …

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