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IoT – Ready to Combat New-age Threats?

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By 2020, Internet is projected to have more things than people. Approaching this remarkable transformation, are we prepared to face the security challenges arising from this paradigm shift?

“The future is now” a common phrase used by the technology spearheads has now become a remarkable reality. A technology which has been in the womb for almost a decade has now started to evolve and get into a prime shape. “Internet of Things” a technology which has the potential to reshape the very rules which we have been fundamentally following to live is ready to go. From environment to security, sales to logistics and industries to home automation, IoT has a wide range of applications that can sweep the humanity off their feet.

Understanding IoT and Associated Risks

The question arises “What exactly is IoT?”. The Internet of Things (IoT) is a system by virtue of which different recognizable embedded devices can be connected to each other with the help of a single internet providing source. The Internet of Things mainly consists of three components they are, the things (or assets) themselves, the communication networks connecting them and the computing systems that make use of the data flowing to and from them. An advanced connectivity of devices, systems and services can be achieved and maintained using this technology as all main components of the system are covered.

Though the technology looks all serrated, refined and ready to use but there are still many questions to be answered and puzzles to be solved when it comes to the real-time use of IoT. Questions like “What will be the data-type that will be collected?”, “Will data be collected with or without any permission?” and most importantly “Who will receive the collected data?” still needs to be answered.

One of the inherent issues which continuously bug the corporate world is unauthorized access by an attacker into their system and confidential data getting leaked. Technology has advanced beyond leaps and bounds but it has also increased the number of vulnerabilities and associated incidents. IoT has dawned with the promise of mitigating and managing the weaknesses associated to paradigm shift. It can not only connect two peripheral devices, it can also manage and restrict the access rights of any anonymous entity trying to gain access to the network. Of course, this will only work when the organization’s embedded system runs on this technology.

Identifying Security Mechanisms

To end the access control chaos and to keep the data safe, IoT forefronts are all set to use “encryption libraries” as a robust security system which will be minimizing and diminishing the liability of the data collected by the sensors which are the soul of this technology. It also helps to combat the access related problems and ensures the sustenance of the 3 pillars of information security i.e. confidentiality, integrity & availability. Along with accuracy in monitoring, security and privacy are important concerns that impact the widespread deployment of sensor networks when it comes to IoT technology. And encryption libraries gut some of the highlighted risks in an appropriate manner. The methods can be different when it comes to the layer of encryption but a general encryption library system present in this technology may use as many as 3 cryptography layers to ensure the safety of the data involved: Encrypted transmission, point-to-point authentication and public key encryption.

Encrypted transmission

In this process, all network nodes share a common key that encrypts information that doesn’t allow the data to get leaked. It utilizes efficient model for this so that the data transfer rate is not affected by complete encryption to provide good response time. This layer ensures that the third-party devices that may harm the network or steal data is kept at bay.

Point-to-Point authentication

Under this, each sensor node communicate confidentially with the sensor gateway. The authentication and integrity of the data is adequately maintained as key renewal encryption takes place and none of the involved nodes that forward information can see the data transmitted.

Public Key Cryptography

The sensor gateway device is the part in which this mode of encryption is utilized. The sensor gateway transmits information to the Cloud by enabling each node to encrypt data using the Cloud server’s public key. The information is kept confidential by this mechanism all the way from the sensor to the Web server on the Internet.

Using the above encryption library system, data which will be generated through this technology can be stored and kept secure from any malicious intent. But larger the sea of technology, the longer will be the shore of security risks and vulnerabilities. The list of questions still prevail that whether or not the security techniques will prove strong enough to stop the attackers from entering the network and stealing data. The advent of a new technology like IoT, of course, will change the way we see the world, but along with it will come a laundry of vulnerabilities and risks that may give the bubble of data thefts and misuse a larger shape.

There are various possibilities that might lead to the failure of the entire model such as breach of the Key Distribution Center/Key Generation Server or using the public key of the cloud to send irrelevant messages that might look like a message coming from one of the sensors. These are technological shortcomings that are possible to overcome through technology solutions. Similarly, IoT has also taken certain resilient steps to create a robust structure with integrated technology and process, but people is still the weakest link that might lead to the downfall of this entire system. The proper use and awareness of information security is what can help the upcoming generations to cope with this mess.

The focus should be more on learning the “What”, “When”, “Where” and “Why” part of the process of securing the information together with focus on the “How” part. With adequate guidance, learning and training can be a blessing when it comes to understanding and managing the security of data. Proactive thinking must be induced when it comes to reliability and security, and training in form of simulations can work as an arrow that can pierce this target. Security Simulations can not only widen the gauge of thinking but it can also make the professionals understand the basic concepts of information security and the best part about it – “It’s the complete philosophy in a nut shell with its practical implications”. There’s no harm in securing one’s base before experimenting something new, similar to a famous saying – “The more you sweat in peace, the less you bleeds in war”.

Conclusion

The advent of IoT may revolutionize our world including every other spectrum of life, but it requires a closer look towards its security & privacy approach with respect to the data that will be originated and stored while it is being implemented and used in real-time.

By: Saurabh Agarwal. He is the Managing Director at SkillCube. He is an MSc, MBA & an S.P Jain Institute of Management & Research (SPJIMR), Mumbai alumnus.

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On March 11, 2015
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