Future Trends: IoT Security

Future Trends

As cyberpunk author William Gibson once said, “The future is already here – it's just not evenly distributed.” We continue to explore Future Trends, which are already seeded and growing today. Technology, which drives people’s lives, businesses, and governments, will alway need to be protected and secured.

The Internet of Things

There are various definitions for the “Internet of Things” (aka, IoT) floating around. A simple definition is that the “IoT is a growing system of billions of devices — or things — worldwide that connect to the internet and to each other through wireless networks.” This includes devices like smart home thermostats, doorbell camera, WiFi baby or pet monitors, smart pacemakers, and more. The wide variety of connected and “smart” devices will further infiltrate not only the lives of consumers, but business, healthcare, government, and military operations.

There are ample benefits as organizations continue the development and deployment of IoT devices. They can help organizations to:

  • Generate new business models and revenue streams

  • Improve business decisions through data-driven insights from IoT data 

  • Increase productivity and efficiency of business operations

  • Enhance customer experience

Underpinning the growth of IoT devices is a push from Internet Protocol Version 4 (IPv4) to Internet Protocol Version 6 (IPv6). Just as your hometown likely has more telephone area codes than when you were a kid, IPv4 address (effectively, your device or network's home phone number) has also seen an explosion of use. Thus the world is running out of IPv4 addresses just billions of internet-connected devices are scheduled to come online.

There are roughly 3.7 billion public IPv4 addresses. This seems like a lot, but it’s not enough to support all the IoT devices that are coming. By contrast there are 340 undecillion IPv6 addresses (that's 340 trillion trillion trillion). That’s 664 billion IPv6 addresses for every grain of sand on Earth! That means IoT devices will represent leaps forward in device manufacturing, data analytics, cloud computing, and networking.

IoT devices aren’t coming. They’re already here. And their impact will increasingly be felt all throughout society. It’s going to be interesting.

IoT Security

As any cybersecurity professional will tell you, anything you connect to the internet can be compromised. The coming explosion of IoT devices will represent an exponential increase in organizations’ attack surfaces. Security continues to be vitally important lest our new devices be weaponized against us. The worst case scenario of malevolent actors compromising a global network of IoT devices is the stuff of dystopian movies. (Read "Future Crimes" by Marc Goodman for more on that.)

A problem that we already see with IoT devices today is software or firmware vulnerabilities, which are infrequently—if ever—patched. Developing and monitoring a secure IoT environment is a different task than creating a secure network environment. IoT devices have finite functionality, so you can’t employ the same security software solutions that you would use with workstations.

As with many Future Trends the ecosystem of related cybersecurity training and certifications isn’t as robust as with traditional, on-premise networks. There are some options though for those interested in learning more and credentialing.

Preparing for a global migration from IPv4 to IPv6 will set you apart. For all the talk of the benefits of IPv6, cybersecurity practitioners are still figuring out how to secure IPv6 networks en masse. After all, there’s no such thing as a private IPv6 address. Every address being public creates a security challenge.

As people continue to move IoT devices into their homes and workplaces, you will undoubtedly see the IoT security niche carve out a spot in cybersecurity. Whether people are creating smart homes or smart cities, there will be an expectation of security. Cybersecurity professionals, who are proficient in IoT security and IPv6 will certainly find demand for their skills.

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