By Sachin Arora
There will be 22 billion connected devices in the world by 2025.
Simply put IoT or internet of things is a network of connected physical objects that are embedded with electronics, chips, sensors, and software, that exchange data over the internet. Evolving exponentially over the past few years, IoT promises convenience and efficiency via connected devices, and it is about to enter one of the most exciting periods in its history.
Scalable and secure IoT solutions are playing a vital role in providing industry players with safe, seamless, and cost-effective ways to capitalise on the IoT evolution and build resilience for the future.
There is practically no single sector or industry that is not witnessing the effect of this evolution. From baby monitors, smart gadgets (like TVs and washing machines), smart lighting system at home, voice control or commanded security gates, mobile cameras et al; today IoT is enabling and dominating every aspect of our life and work. Helping us become smarter and save money and time.
The telecommunications industry is one of the leading players when it comes to IoT technologies. Thanks to the ability and use of existing network infrastructure which provides as the groundwork; that is helping develop new solutions and services based on IoT technologies.
Launch of 5G, is giving further impetus to IoT to revolutionise connectivity sector, beginning with smart cities and utilities, to connected cars and emergency services. The early and fast adoption of 5G and IoT will drive factors like increased demand from consumers and enterprises, add to this availability of more devices; it will take the adoption level of IoT many notches higher.
Major investment in 5G technology, spectrum, and infrastructure, together with the implementation of global standards, will also give a thrust to its growth and market interest.
The vision of a global IoT network, supporting a massive number of connected devices will be realised as more and more domestic and enterprise devices will be connected. From smart meters and fridges to autonomous vehicles – IoT will support basic machine to machine(M2M) communications, but on a much larger scale than is currently possible.
5G developments are expected to progress towards use in some of the most essential services provided across society. This is being referred to as the “mission-critical internet of things” (MC-IoT) and will speed up connectivity within emergency services, hospitals, fire services, and smart cities.
In general, either massive or critical IoT is going to play large role in the overall society especially as 5G network roll out gets further pace and adoption with gradual penetration in the market.
The question then remains to be asked, ‘Is IoT vulnerable to cyber-attacks?’
With every advancement comes with – its own concerns and challenges. Amidst all the excitement, critical questions of IoT security cannot not be overlooked.
While the upsides of 5G are hugely appealing for businesses and service providers across the globe, its penetration will also bring significant risks to enterprises that utilise it especially in the cloud networks.
With everything connected to internet and further increase in M2M devices, threats of attack will increase and bring with it, its own set of security risks which needs to be considered before any major roll out of IoT in any enterprise for any use case.
Vulnerabilities could be many but from high level point of view, listed below are some, however not limited to :
- Insecure networks (even 5G). Every network has vulnerability towards attack
- Insecure data transfer & storage
- Weak password management by users
- Lack of software updates/patches
- Unsecured and untested devices
So, what can be done to reduce such vulnerabilities? Well, the buck cannot stop at any party or stakeholder. Various stakeholders will have to share the responsibility, at various levels and the line-up could be like this –
- Device manufacturers: Thorough testing, effective product design and penetrations test are the basis considerations, that needs to be undertaken at the manufacturing or designing phase itself.
- Enterprise network: While using public network, ensuring proper cybersecurity planning and prioritisation of security topic will be imperative.
- Users end: Its quintessential at the users end to have a strong password management, regular firmware upgrades etc., to keep the security issues at bay.
So, what are some of the real and major factors that can effect or compromise IoT security?
- Lack of global/local IoT regulations: As of now, no global security standard is defined spanning the segments of IoT.
- Lack of prioritisation of security topics over price and performance by device manufacturers.
- Lack of coordination and integration among stakeholders like sensor manufacturers, connectivity partners, Mobile Network Operators (MNO’s) and other relevant stakeholders. Enterprises are working more in silos due to lack of standardisation.
A sustainable IoT environment in 5G era is required to be built, where data privacy and cybersecurity are key priority areas. A need for standardised and regulatory bodies that work in close quarters with governments and industries across the world is of utmost importance now, more than ever. Of course, there are huge advantages and transformation opportunities that 5G is opening with further penetration of IoT across the globe. However, what needs to be understood and agreed upon is that none of this can come at the expense of security.
The author is the director- professional services , India at Giesecke & Devrient MS India Pvt. Ltd.