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The Promise and the Peril of the IoT

July 30, 2014
The Internet of Things (IoT) has the world’s attention, both for the enormous possibilities and the enormous security risks it holds.  The concept of the IoT was first posed in the late ‘90s, foretelling of devices and objects (cars, household items, smart TV, medical devices) equipped with embedded systems, unique identifiers and the ability to automatically transfer data over a network. By some industry estimates the IoT market will approach $7 trillion by 2020, with some 20 billion connected devices. Anything that big and ubiquitous is ripe for exploitation.

Peak 10’s technology partner for high-performance network security, Fortinet ®, conducted a survey earlier this year of 1,800 homeowners in 11 countries that included questions about security and privacy in the IoT. A majority voiced concern that a connected appliance could result in a data breach or exposure of sensitive, personal information. Sixty-eight percent of U.S. respondents said that they were “extremely concerned” or “somewhat concerned”; the global average was 69 percent.

They should be. A recent Forbes.com article chronicled how a cyber-pervert was able to hack a brand of video baby monitors and remotely hurl obscenities at sleeping infants. The “how-to” was a YouTube video of a presentation made at a security conference in Amsterdam by two very smart daddy-engineers who discovered the vulnerability while playing around with their own monitors.

Even though 67 percent of Americans in the Fortinet research said they’d feel “completely violated and extremely angry to the point where I would take action,” about half would happily pay more money for amped-up Internet service to accommodate the IoT.

Another of our valued technology partners, Cisco, explored the security implications of the IoT from the business side. In his blog, “Securing What’s At Stake with the Internet of Things,” Chris Young called for a meeting of the minds between the camps of information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT).

“With an unprecedented number of companies staking the future of their businesses on the pervasive connectedness that the IoT world promises, business leaders need to empower their technical teams to create secure IoT networks,” he wrote, going on to say that a holistic approach to security mindedness is imperative. “Solutions must be put into place to protect the device, control levels of the network, and the data contained and shared. We need to shift our mindset from considering each object in isolation, to looking at the whole.”

The security systems at many companies were installed to address one particular problem; too many discrete security solutions that don’t communicate with one another can obscure the big picture and the trail that cyber ne’er-do-wells follow to do their dirty work. And, except for smartphones, tablets and computers, the common devices that will populate the IoT are first- and second-generation and probably not all that stable or secure. Will patches be timely and effective?

All this is coming up fast and there is a great deal of work to be done. Peak 10 is pleased to be partnering with the right technology companies to stay on top of developments and solutions as they become available.

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About Peak 10

"Our values are the foundation for everything we do at Peak 10, and are ultimately what enable us to earn our customers' business and their trust."
David H. Jones,
Board Member, Peak 10 + ViaWest