The Internet of Things or IoT could potentially connect tens of billions of devices to the internet. However, this brings with it new security threats in addition to new variations of existing problems. Let’s learn more about some of the factors making IoT security a top priority and a few potential solutions.

The Need to Secure So Many More Devices

You can already have your smart fridge can connect to a photo hub to display your latest pictures. Your motor control center probably reports its activity to the manufacturer as well as to the manufacturing control center. The massive amount of data produced is one problem, though it is partially addressed with edge computing. The threat to IT security is every point where these devices connect to each other and the outside world. You now have to apply IT security measures like firewall protections and antivirus software on manufacturing support systems in addition to web servers. And you have to poke holes into your firewall for every single device that requires a connection to supplier’s systems or the cloud to work. This is but one of the reasons why IoT security concerns are starting to become nightmarish even as we just begin the process of securing the internet of things.

The Greater Threat Posed by Denial of Service

In a traditional manufacturing plant, a denial of service attack might shut down your website and prevent someone from emailing a customer. In smart factories, it could cripple your production line. Your manufacturing control systems may not be able to order new parts for just in time production lines. And they can’t communicate with the cloud where they save production data and relay system notifications. This means a DDoS system might cause production to grind to a halt, or it may simply become less efficient.

The Scaled Up Number of Devices that Could Be Hacked

Hackers try to hijack anything to serve their purpose, whether it is sending out phishing scams or set up zombie computers to work in botnets to attack given targets. Now you have to monitor network traffic and scan devices ranging from smart power distribution centers to motor control centers to smart appliances. Nor is this limited to the manufacturing floor. It can affect the smart home, too. Yes, your smart fridge may be sending spam emails for a hacker. Or your information appliance might be tracking everything you say, whether this is a variation of the tracking software planted on a cell phone by a jealous partner to a would-be thief who wants to know when you will be home alone.

The Need to Design Security into System

Smart devices create a conundrum. On one hand, their connectivity and intelligence makes them targets for hackers. On the other hand, this means they can have built-in security. The problem is that IoT devices are constrained by cost and resources. If they’re running anti-virus and other protective software, they may not have the resources to collect, analyze and send summarized reports to the control center. If a secure version can be made, it may cost more than customers are willing to pay. After all, you’re installing thousands of smart meters to help save electricity on the idea that the cost savings will be less than the cost of the meters and their installation. Raise the cost of the hardware and its support, and you make it too expensive for large scale rollouts. Even edge computing devices run into this problem. They’re smart enough to host malware and multiple bots, but they may not be able to run real-time intrusion detection software like your servers. Yet failure to secure the edge computing device means it will consume the bandwidth you hoped to save by implementing edge computing.

By Ben Prince

Founder of Technology News Extra.

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