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Security issues stand in the way of IoT progress

Posted: 06 May 2015     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Intel  Internet of Things  security 

The Internet of Things (IoT) can be described simply as a technology, despite its extensive deployment, as somewhat incomplete. Challenges can still be found in almost every corner, which means the room for improvement is huge. In order to deliver the full potential of IoT, engineers need to face the security issues through a combination of interoperability, education and good design.

The reason for this is that many smart, connected devices are either completely unsecured or boast security features that are far too complex for the average consumer to implement, leaving data vulnerable to attack and even raising safety concerns for devices controlling the home, factory and car. Engineers have to rise to the occasion to realise the true power of IoT.

It's only a matter of time before we see a major IoT attack. For example, as smart light bulbs are coming in to homes with no security built in whatsoever. Surveillance cameras and home gateways often come with default passcodes that are never changed. If a company attempts to push software updates to its smart devices, both the consumer and company are at risk for a data breach or even physical harm.

The first step to better security is establishing common standards across the entire spectrum. Several groups are focused on solving the interoperability problem, and security is a key part of the standard discussion. The current goal is to have the specs and implementation done this year, with a focus on bringing standards-based products to market before year end.

If you ask the typical consumer about IoT security, you're likely to get a dozen different opinions, many of them misinformed. As we design products for the IoT, we must also conduct outreach and education campaigns to empower customers with relevant security knowledge, such as the need to set strong passwords, understanding what permissions each device has, what kind of data it's collecting, and where that information ultimately ends up.

Developers need to take a proactive, not a reactive, approach to designing security features, which will result in a better, safer product and increased customer loyalty, as opposed to a reactive approach. This is an emerging and increasingly important topic in the security field, and will soon be a major competitive differentiator.

One great way to be more proactive is to participate in ongoing industry standards work. Several of the current standards groups, such as the Open Interconnect Consortium, are actively soliciting product designers to discuss their unique challenges so they can better understand what kind of standards are needed. There's no better time to make our voices heard and help define the forthcoming standards that will shape the future of connected technology.

We're entering a period of truly limitless possibility as a result of the IoT, and can expect to see incredible innovations emerge in the coming years that will enhance the way we live. In order to bring this innovation to fruition, we must first conquer the security challenge through a combination of interoperability, education and design, ensuring that IoT is as safe and secure as it is dynamic.

- Mark Skarpness

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