Every aspect of our modern society has been pervaded by the Internet- from social networks to digital media, a sizeable chunk of the population now have a digital persona which is tied to their digital footprint. As we step into an age of connected devices, we stand at the precipice of merging our physical and digital identities to become one and the same.
But as we approach this watershed moment in human history, one fear looms large over us. The growing threat of cyber crimes, online identity thefts, hacks on private as well as government databases and of course DDOS attacks can no longer be brushed off as petty cyber crimes. As entire countries make the move towards a paperless economy, the threat of a large scale cyber attack becomes every more likely.
IoT Devices: Why are they be the Entry Point of Cyber Attacks?
So how do we protect ourselves? The answer to that is very simple-Identify the weakest link in the chain and fortify it. With a Gartner estimate of around 8.4 billion connected devices in 2017 itself, it is very obvious why IoT devices are most often targeted as the point of attack. Not only are there an abundance of IoT devices to attack but their sheer number makes them a nightmare for enterprise as well as home based security.
Having identified the point of attack, as developers it is pretty easy to assume that the solution would involve simply running more secure code on IoT devices and routine checking for vulnerabilities. But as with every new technology, security on IoT devices brings with it a new set of hurdles that developers as well as organisations have to identify and overcome.
What Makes the Internet of Things So Vulnerable?
The chief security concerns that plague most of the current generation of IoT devices can be briefly summarised as:
- Security flaws in the Web/App based control interface
- Lack of sufficient authentication procedures
- Vulnerabilities in the IoT Network
- Data Leak due to lack of encryption
- Risk of Exposure increases with long term Data Accumulation Processes
- Critical Security Flaws in the Cloud Interface
- Security Flaws in Device/Sensor software or firmware
- Risk of being physically stolen.
While these 8 points may appear daunting, they can be solved with the help of 3 simple steps. The only caveat being there should be a concerted efforts among hardware manufacturers as well as developers and organisations and enterprises who deploy as well as produce IoT devices and connected home appliances to come together and implement the same solution.
1. Unified IoT Device and Sensor Protection and Security Laws
The IoT space until now has mostly been littered with tech startups as well as other small to medium sized enterprises that have developed their products keeping in mind specific use cases be it for their B2B or B2C clients. But with the introduction of larger companies like Microsoft, IBM and Google into the IoT space, the need of the hour is for governments across the world to come together and decide on a set of basic security feature set and protocols that each device has to pass through in order to get clearance for usage in the public as well sa private domain.
While there are a few platforms like IBM Watson that does follow strict quality protocols that are in line with International standards and practices which is compliant with ISO 27001. The Watson platform has taken giant strides forward in unifying standards with thousands of companies and portfolios all under the same Cognitive SOC Security umbrella.
2. More Capable IoT Platforms
A lot of the problems that we pointed out earlier can simply be solved having a security first cloud based IoT platform. In an advanced cognitive intelligence based platform like IBM’s Watson, developers get TLS enabled by default making all communication between the web/cloud and app interface encrypted and free from vulnerabilities.
Another struggle that many IoT developers face is how to deal with vulnerabilities in the code as the software that is running on their sensors and connected devices ages. While there are a few advanced IoT platforms, again IBM’s Watson comes to mind that can directly roll out firmware upgrades, most other prevailing IoT platforms fail miserably in this regard. The Watson platform is not only capable of rolling out upgrades, but can also roll back to a previous firmware and factory reset the data if the need be.
Another reason we find that most developers are daunted by the prospect of working on complex networks and authentication systems in an IoT environment is due to the lack of programming flexibility that is offered by most IoT platforms. IBM’s Watson stands head and shoulder above the rest in this account with SDK support for a variety of languages like Node, Java, Python, .NET, Unity as well as SEO focussed tools like the Salesforce SDK. This flexibility is key in making a developer friendly environment and the Watson framework actively fosters that.
The threats that the IoT devices are facing today are completely new and thus standard IT security norms aren’t effective in securing them. But with the help of machine learning based IoT platforms, developers can analyse and then also push out updates in real time patching out vulnerabilities even before someone gets the chance of exploiting them.
IBM Watson provides an advanced security framework that works on cognitive IoT to monitor and analyse every situation so as to best adapt and eliminate the threats as soon as they appear as blips on the radar. Together known as Security Intelligence, this is one of the most sophisticated instances of security services provided by an IoT platform and shows why IBM Watson is one of the flagbearers for IoT based Cyber Security worldwide
3. Better Hardware & Physical Security for IoT devices
This is one where we would probably face the most issues as industry forerunners face a constant struggle between making IoT sensors and Smart Home devices cheap and accessible vs spending more time and money in making them secure. There is a delicate balance and to be struck in regards to this and we hope that in the future manufacturers will come up with ingenious solutions that make intelligent use of sensory data and embedded software that can safely protect and if need be erase its internal data should a case of physical theft of the device itself were to occur.
This ability to hard reset itself in order to protect collected user data is something only a few IoT platforms can offer at the moment. With IBM Watson at the helm, it is possible to remotely factory reset a sensor and due to the presence of Threat Intelligence capabilities of Watson, this process can also if need be automated so as to ensure maximum data safety even in cases of physical theft.
While IoT devices at first glance may appear to be vulnerable, with the steps taken by innovators in the IoT community as well as the efforts of companies like IBM with their Watson Iot development platform, the weakest link in the chain is on the path towards becoming impenetrable safeguarding our data and adding an entirely new dimension to Cyber Security itself!
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