Internet of Things brings opportunity, significant security challenges

LONGMONT — The Internet of Things is a fact of the 21st century, as more and more devices and sensors become connected to the cloud to collect data for people to analyze and learn from.

But one of the greatest concerns a device such as a wearable presents is who actually has access to the data.

It’s not just the owner of the device. In fact, for each wearable, about 10 to 12 cloud companies are involved in the storage and transfer of data, panelists shared at a Longmont Startup Week event on cyber security.

Protecting that data is a major concern to Marty Skolnick, a panelist and account manager at Siemens Industry Inc., which is building the connected home development Sterling Ranch.

“To me, it’s all about the ownership of the data,” he said. “That’s where the greatest risk is. We need a solution. Whether it’s privatizing and commoditizing that information or forming some secure alliances so your information is not freely sold from corporation to corporation. If IoT can solve that, then we’re good. After all, we’re going to have some 30 billion connected devices in the next three years.”

An issue with wearables can be their ease of being hacked, said Don Bailey, a researcher and founder of Lab Mouse Security. Most mobile-phone softwares, such as Apple’s iOS, are extremely hack-resistant. But a cheap wearable can be an easy backdoor to getting into a phone and accessing data, calls, texts and any other sort of communication or personal information stored on it.

The way to combat this is to have some sort of best practices amongst the industry. That likely won’t come from the federal government, which has challenges enforcing regulations when it comes to data and has difficulty keeping up with the speed of IoT’s real-world problems.

Where it could come from is an alliance of industry experts across IoT, cloud services and wireless communication that can come up with unified best practices.

The problem now, Don Bailey said, is that most experts are operating in silos to decide best practices and not working together.

“What we need for IoT is the government to say to everyone in IoT that they need to play together or not play at all,” he said.

Although the security challenges that face IoT can be difficult, IoT pioneer and futurist Matt Bailey urged startups working in the field not to let the roadblocks deter them.

“If you’re involved in IoT, stick with it,” he said. “You’re doing IoT because you have a passion to solve a particular problem. Stick with it, keep learning, talking and sharing to bring your proposition forward.”