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IoT security challenges

 

IoT is a complex network of billions of Internet-connected devices that collect and transmit huge amounts of data across of a wide range of devices (sensors, robots, machinery, mobile apps, digital assistants, etc.) and integrated systems. Also, the data have to pass different administrative boundaries with different policies. Certainly, all of it creates challenges for protecting the IoT ecosystem.

First, companies and organizations have to ensure privacy and confidentiality of user data. Second, data communications should be protected at all levels. So, when building an IoT solution, take care of the “right” data delivery including the right place, time, and form. Third, make all interactions traced and monitored so that suspicious activities will be instantly detected.

There are many IoT security risks and challenges you should know and prevent when developing an IoT project. In terms of increased worry about cyber attacks and data privacy, companies have to establish new security models and integrate innovative technologies. In the IoT world, the use of Blockchain is an emerging trend promising to solve most or even all of IoT security issues.

 

What is Blockchain

 

Blockchain is a technology of the distributed ledger that maintains a continuously increasing number of transactions. Representing an immutable and inconvertible record and being based on cryptographic algorithms, Blockchain provides data security and protects data.

As Blockchain is decentralized, there is no central authority or regulatory body required for transaction approval and management. A distributed technology nature makes computer servers to come to a consensus, allowing transactions to be carried out anonymously and without intermediaries.

Blockchain is also about trust: cryptography is used to prevent technical data forge and distortion. In the chain of blocks, each block contains a hash serving as a link to the previous one. Thus, it’s impossible to substitute an intermediate block in the finished chain.

So, Blockchain provides a high-security level. While the tool is the same, it has many successful applications in a variety of business industries. Mika Lammi, Kinno’s Head of IoT Business Development, Kouvola Innovation Ltd, said: “I believe Blockchain to be one of the truly disruptive and innovative application areas in the world now, and that it will create huge waves across all imaginable business sectors”.

 

Blockchain and IoT

 

Coming up with decentralized, autonomous, and data protection capabilities, Blockchain has a great potential to secure the IoT ecosystem. In the Internet of Things, Blockchain can keep an immutable record of connected devices’ activities and automatically maintain the history of their communications.

What’s more, by integrating the technology, companies and organizations can allow trustless safe message exchanges between IoT devices. In this case, Blockchain will work like in financial transactions: data is transmitted between multiple devices and delivered to the places required. To enable peer-to-peer messaging, businesses can integrate Ethereum smart contracts serving as the agreement between two parties.

For example, let’s take Blockchain and IoT linked together to improve manufacturing operations. Here the use of Blockchain can enable smart devices to not only exchange data, but even automatically execute financial transactions. IoT devices monitor machinery and equipment health, alert managers about problems, and order repairs when required.

In the agriculture industry, farmers can place IoT devices to collect data about crops in order to ensure an efficient functioning of the irrigation system. Smart contracts describe how the solution parts (analytics system, sensors, etc.) should behave based on the conditions defined. This approach helps provide automatic water management.

 

Blockchain advantages for IoT security:

 

  1. Immutable record of all data communications
  2. Monitoring of suspicious activities
  3. Prevention of data forge and distortion
  4. Peer-to-peer messaging between IoT devices
  5. Autonomous functioning of smart devices

 

Today, Blockchain is one of the most promising trends in IoT security field. Decentralized and data protection capabilities make Blockchain a perfect part of IoT solutions. Understanding the technology prospects, many companies have already integrated Blockchain to solve IoT security challenges.

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The Internet of Things plays an important role in today’s life, affecting a plenty of businesses and changing the way we work, live, and entertain. Coming up with workflow automation, remote equipment monitoring, inventory tracking, and real-time data collection, IoT promises to bring innovation in various industries.

Understanding high IoT potential, companies and corporations invest in IoT projects, startups, and initiatives. According to New IDC Spending Guide, the worldwide IoT spending is predicted to reach nearly $1.4 trillion in 2021. What’s more, Gartner research expects the number of IoT-enabled devices will be about 21 billion by 2020.

Though IoT provides many advantages and opportunities, there remain IoT security risks and challenges, that now are of the highest concern. Since today almost everything can be hacked, businesses have to look for and integrate new security mechanisms allowing to ensure data and device protection.

 

The main IoT security risks

 

1. Data Leaks

Smart devices collect and transmit various data that may involve such important information as credit card numbers, zip codes, customer locations, camera images, IP addresses, and much more. A leakage of private/personal/business/financial data can lead a company to money and reputation losses, and harm people’s lives.

2. User verification

Misconfiguration and default passwords use are common reasons for the appearance of device/data vulnerabilities. That’s why engineers should implement the ability for customers to create their own passwords while establishing the highest level of password reliability that all users have to follow.

3. Lack of regulations

Unfortunately, there are often no regulations for IoT devices. The creation of a standards-based approach to security should be a top-priority task for companies, organizations, and even governments.

4. Unknown surveillance

Often unprotected IoT devices can be accessed by any remote user or at least can be easily hacked. The consequences can be poor: for instance, streaming and selling private videos and images (including those from stores, shopping centers, etc.).

 

IoT security recommendations

 

1. Focus on data traffic monitoring. Imagine a cloud IoT solution, that monitors both inbound and outbound traffic, traces all suspicious activities, blocks unsafe communications, instantly alerts users and the central system about potential problems, and prevents data leaks.

2. Implement end-to-end encryption in your application, the most reliable way to protect user data. Famous mobile messengers WhatsApp and Viber added the support of e2e encryption long ago. If your project implies many data/user communications, you can use this approach too.

3. Use reliable tools that help ensure data confidentiality and privacy as well as build a secure and scalable data storage. Integrate a feature of suspicious activity and malicious code monitoring. For example, today we can see an increasing use of AI technology for real-time security monitoring.

4. Focus on testing activities. When developing an IoT solution, pay a lot of attention to the testing/QA process. It’s much better to prevent any security issues at the pre-release stage than waste time for bug fixing after.

5. Integrate a Blockchain decentralized approach. Since Blockchain is based on cryptographic algorithms, it helps protect and manage data. Blockchain has all transactions (interactions) recorded, so the history of smart devices will be also recorded. At the moment, the use of Blockchain for securing the Internet of Things is one of the emerging and most promising trends.

 

As you see, there are really good ways to minimize IoT security vulnerabilities. Here I should note that one of the best recommendations for developing a successful IoT project is to apply to a reliable IT company that would focus on security and data privacy issues. Also, when choosing the company, pay attention whether it meets the GDPR requirements, which will be especially important from the regulation enforcement on May 25, 2018.

 

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