Occasionally there are innovations to relatively understandable systems that convolute even the most dedicated and conscientious mind. The Internet of Things is one of these concepts that immediately confuses people. Sure, the average consumer understands the act of outfitting devices with a connection to the Internet, but just how the whole construct works, or how it is managed, tend to be absolute abstractions. Here is what you need to know about the ever-growing Internet of Things and how it is inevitably going to affect the way you view, and manage, your organization’s technology.
The Concept of the Internet of Things
Once the Internet was created and lauded as perhaps the greatest invention in human history, it was inevitable that some items were going to be integrated with Internet connectivity. The first one on record was a toaster. Created in 1990 by the MIT-based networking innovator, John Romkey, he was able to outfit a Sunbeam Deluxe Automatic Radiant Control Toaster toaster with the components required to turn it on and off through a networked computer. The concept was expanded on by Xerox’s Mark Weiser, who has since been synonymous with the global computing explosion that we find ourselves trying to adjust to today.
Since its theoretical beginnings in the early nineties, the Internet has since been transformed by this computing trend. Over the past several years we’ve seen smaller, touchscreen devices that offer superior computing capabilities take over the hardware market, rendering many a PC dormant. Unsurprisingly, this has led consumers to be inundated with products of all types that are being outfitted with some degree of connectivity. From refrigerators to lamps, bathroom scales to stereos, thermostats to light bulbs, there are literally billions of products on the market that carry with them the moniker “smart”.
The interesting part is that these goods are present all around us and we haven’t gotten to the point where we are completely aware of what it means. As with any automated systems, there are significant alterations ahead. Some of these changes dictate how we are able to use these seemingly benign products, while others deal with the ways we have to manage our technology differently to take this shift, and the threats presented by it, into account.
Did Someone Say Threats?
So the whole culture is rapidly integrating these goods that have “smart” capabilities. We have refrigerators that have sensors that alert your local supermarket to put together an order when certain products are low or run out. We have thermostats that can literally be adjusted from three states away. The more goods are outfitted with this connectivity the more nefarious entities network administrators will encounter.
How can a refrigerator, a thermostat, or a light bulb, be a potential threat to your organization’s cyber security? Simply put, since these technologies are in their infancy, there is no static framework for the security of all these new connected goods. This alone makes it extraordinarily difficult to manage access, and thus the integrity of systems. The commercial response of increased demand for these goods have put manufacturers and network administrators in a relatively difficult position. Is it prudent business to manufacture and market new consumer products that could be a security problem for the organization that is purchasing it? Moreover, these devices also are capable of reporting user data to help manufacturers build the best product they can. These ethical conundrums are at the heart of the Internet of Things implementation.
Of course, even if security is a major factor with the integration of these goods, the demands of a market filled with consumers that can’t wait to get their hands on these connected devices will make it very difficult for security professionals until the necessary questions are answered. If past technologies are any indication, for every major IoT vendor there is, there will be two or more run-of-the-mill, generic products that, while looking for their piece of the market, will ignore, or at the very least skimp on securing their products. This, like other platforms of this type, could be a major disaster for the integrity of any organization’s network that uses these types of haphazardly secured products.