In our December issue last year, we already provided hints where IoT is heading this year in Asia Pacific when we presented Hitachi Vantara’s insightful predictions. Summarily, both Hubert Yoshida and Russell Skingsley believe the adoption of Internet of Things (IoT) platforms will dominate enterprise IT strategies in 2018. At the same time, both CTOs of Hitachi Vantara made clear that they seek to collaborate with customers and ecosystem players to innovate and create new value for business stakeholders, customers and society at large.
Their approach is definitely right but raises the question if IoT users should always know which devices are transmitting data and who the recipients are? After all, consumers are generally quite critical when it comes to the use of their personal information, which is why I think consumers should be aware of the data that each device passes on to which recipients. In the end, from a strategical point of view, the IoT industry as a whole - and marketing respectively- will profit from the transparency initiative.
According to a Gartner forecast, there will be 20.4 billion Internet-connected things and devices in households by 2020, just to highlight the relevance of my question. Since it is in the interest of everyone to build an appreciation for the technology, I think the digital industry must prepare to give insight into data processes and thus contribute to transparency. One option could be, for instance, providing consumers with a kind of self-assessment of the connected devices, which could then be transferred with little effort to any networked device. The more the number of devices grows, the turnover of the providers increases.
More weak spots due to increasing networking
The Internet of Things is expected to bring great comforts for consumers, create more market opportunities, more business models, and is seen as the Industrial Revolution 4.0, but the road of progression is paved by concerns about security and privacy. Currently, around six billion appliances are already connected to the Internet and this number is expected to rise to 26 billion by 2020, Gartner predicts. On the one hand, the Internet of Things holds great potential for innovation, on the other hand it increases the scope for cyberattacks enormously. Every single networked device - even if it is just a tiny embedded system - ultimately represents another potential point of attack. Not to mention that cybercriminals are active on the IoT simply because of bad protection mechanisms, its security gaps and dangerous vulnerabilities. And that’s not even surprising, with manufacturers still more concerned about new features than security measures when developing IoT devices. This needs to change as fast as possible, even if implementing uniform security standards and adequate safeguards on millions of different devices is without doubt a major challenge.
Next-generation hackers emerge
Not only IT has undergone a change thanks to cloud computing, increased digitization, and mobile computing. The hacker scene as adapted fast and changed significantly in recent years, too. We are no longer confronted by semi-professional individual perpetrators, but well-organized hacker networks, which makes cyberattacks of the 21st century the more dangerous: Hackers that act like companies, manage tailor-made attacks and have in addition sufficient financial resources, are always finding new ways to break through previously effective security barriers.
Ineffective security technologies
Although the damage caused by hackers and espionage has increased dramatically in recent years, many IoT devices and common infrastructure remain vulnerable. Countless companies, including large corporations and operators of critical infrastructures, have not yet realized the seriousness of the situation and therefore have often neither adequate technical security measures nor adequate insurance coverage in place. To prevent manipulation, data theft and reverse engineering, conventional security technologies such as conventional anti-virus software, firewalls, or even static encryption and obfuscation programs, are completely inept. Particularly mobile devices and IoT applications that run in distributed and unsecured environments require special protection. With 84% of all cyberattacks currently taking place at the application level, it is imperative to implement security there, too. Because only if the application itself has been equipped at the end of its development process, at the binary code level, with multi-layered and dynamic protection mechanisms - and above all an active encryption of sensitive keys - it can effectively withstand sophisticated hacker attacks and manipulation attempts. The fact is that cybercrime, data theft, and cyber-attacks have reached a new dimension in recent years, mainly due to the advancing digitization, an increasingly professional hacker scene and the lack of security technology.
Well, although it is much easier to find applications for IoT that help consumers in managing their everyday life, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) holds great benefits as well, aside from the typical purpose to automate, save costs and optimize. A more holistic view and clear strategy is needed to make the shift towards innovation, better customer-centric service, leveraging new sources of data-driven revenues, building ecosystems of value and ecosystem-wide digital transformation.
By Daniela La Marca