For the past two years, IoT has remained consistently in the headlines, with much discussion surrounding its potential to drive huge economic benefits and dramatically improve our lives and businesses. Predictions such as the one by Accenture, stating that industrial IoT alone could add $14.2 trillion to the world economy over the next 15 years by improving productivity, reducing operating costs and enhancing worker safety, highlight the enormous potential IoT can bring to all aspects of our existence. However, despite these clear benefits, there are urgent security issues that must first be addressed for IoT’s potential to be fully realised.

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With security being such a vital aspect of IoT, many of the world’s leading IoT experts will be attending Smart IoT London on the 12th and 13th of April to discuss and debate how best to address the issues and opportunities that accompany IoT. In advance of the show, some of the speakers have shared their thoughts on how to tackle the challenges ahead to unlock the full value of the IoT.

IoT hacks could have disastrous consequences

There is an undoubted consensus that security is one of the most pressing issues facing IoT. As Srdjan Krco, CEO, DunavNET noted, “security is one of the top challenges in the IoT era. Having a large number of devices in the field makes IoT solutions very susceptible to various attacks, from eavesdropping to forging data. The latter can have dire consequences and in some cases might be difficult to discover quickly.”

The severity of IoT hacks was echoed by Raphaël Crouan, Founder & Managing Director, Startupbootcamp IoT | Connected Devices, who commented that “as the number of use cases within Industrial IoT grows, so does the security risk. Hacking into a smart kettle is one thing, hacking into smart manufacturing plants or power grids is something much more serious.”

As Thingalytics author and PLAT.ONE CEO Dr. John Bates noted, “even US Vice President Dick Cheney did not get a networked pacemaker fitted, fearing that hackers could shut down his heart!” As Bates observed, this shows that with IoT being implantable and swallowable, as well as wearable, there is now also a need to protect our bodies from hackers.

Taking responsibility

So how can these challenges be addressed to ensure a more secure connected world?

For Phillip Pexton, Senior Analyst, Beecham Research, responsibility is key, and we must establish “who is responsible for security and at what stages “. As Pexton noted, “until the liability for the first major breaches are decided in court and a precedent set, this is still a very open topic.”

Similarly, Pexton observed that we must also determine “who owns data pertaining to an individual’s activities/energy usage/etc.? The individual, the device manufacturers collecting the data or the service provider?”

Discussion of data ownership also brings with it discussion of data privacy, which is a further key issue for the IoT

Protecting privacy

Discussion of data ownership also brings with it discussion of data privacy, which is a further key issue for the IoT. Evelyn De Souza, Data Privacy and Security Leader, Cisco Systems, Cloud Security Alliance Strategy Advisor, commented that “as the Internet of Things gains further ubiquity, data on consumer lifestyles and habits will take on increased value to IoT manufacturers and their ecosystem of partners. And, as our lives are increasingly digitally connected, so, too there will be a digital data trail associated with increasingly intimate aspects of our lives. This is something that is often not discussed as much as it should.”

These concerns were supported by Krco, who added that “increased availability of IoT services is introducing various privacy concerns, which vary according to individual factors like personal characteristics, cultural background and norms, etc. In addition to data privacy concerns emanating from leaving digital footprints on social networks, credit card transactions etc., IoT installations in smart cities, shops, and buildings are adding another layer at which personal information from location to the actual activity and context is being recorded.”

Human and technology concerns

For Innovate UK Lead Technologist Jonny Voon, technology security issues are trumped by human concerns. “The weakest link in the security chain is not the technology, algorithm or machine; it’s the human,” noted Voon, highlighting the importance for businesses to train their teams against security risks.

However, there are undoubtedly steps that must be taken to safeguard the devices themselves, with Voon adding that “cyber security should be inherent and designed from the very beginning, and not just for IoT.”

As Crouan explained: “There is a lack of subject matter or uniformity across security processes, making the jobs of hardware engineers very difficult. Vulnerabilities exist across a range of products, caused by poor encryption or backdoor access. It only requires one weak spot to open up a whole IoT network, and that could put thousands of devices at risk.”

Need for guidelines

To help further promote security, it is also vital that guidelines are established. As Clive Longbottom, Founder and Research Director, Quocirca said, there is currently little guidance (industry or legal) on IoT data security as yet, meaning that organisations will need to ensure IoT data systems are flexible enough to embrace new security demands.”

This was echoed by Voon, who stated that, “government policy and regulation will need to change and adapt to the way we use and interpret data.”

Simon Jones, Editor of WearableTechWatch also supported this, commenting that “the IoT needs standards – fast – in security, for the protection of everyone, especially since we’re all going to be outnumbered by so-called “intelligent” devices by a ratio of up to 7:1.”

Concerns giving rise to opportunities

Despite these concerns, some of the security challenges also bring with them opportunities. As De Souza observed, “in many ways digitisation has given end users more empowerment. So in this digital age, ought people not to have increased control, versus the current trend of surrendering data streams that are personal and intimate to manufacturers, service providers and other third party organisations?

“And, increasingly data streams from the various IoT models we will consume at work and home will have a monetary value”, De Souza continued. “They already do today in our digital world, which is far less intimate than the data streams that will come from the world of IoT. There is an opportunity to enable people to make decisions around privacy based on the monetary value of their data.”

As is clear from many of the speakers’ comments, addressing IoT’s security challenges will be essential in order to ensure its widespread success and unlock its true potential. With security featuring heavily in the Smart IoT London agenda, we’re looking forward to seeing these issues addressed to help promote a more secure connected world.

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To register for Smart IoT London, please visit http://www.smartiotlondon.com/about/visit