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IoT trends, security challenges, and possible solutions

With the proliferation of the internet, connectivity and communication have become seamless. The possibility of having connectivity between devices became over the internet has led to the development of the concept called the Internet of Things (IoT), which is a trending topic today. IoT is a network of things i.e. physical objects viz electronic sensors, software, and other technologies that are interconnected over the Internet and exchange information with other devices and systems. IoT has become one of the most important technologies of 21st century.

The goal of the IoT is to enable things to be connected anytime, anyplace, with anything and anyone ideally using any path/network and any service. It will bring internet to billions of connected devices, which can be household objects to industrial tools. The application of IoT can be found in every sector, be it health, education, transport, agriculture industry, and the like. With IoT coupled with cloud and cloud-based services, low-cost sensors, mobile technologies, big data analytics and Artificial Intelligence(AI), it is now possible to collect, record, monitor, and analyse data in a quick and affordable way to make sound decisions in every sector.

It is clear that the next Industrial Revolution 4.0 will ride on IoT, M2M (Machine to Machine), and 5G technologies. These technologies will be like a horizontal layer supplying feed to all verticals, be it health, education, energy, transport, agriculture, industrial automation etc. Therefore, it is important to understand IoT trends and the security challenges and steps to develop possible solutions to these security challenges. The IoT trends in various sectors are as follows:

  • Healthcare sector: The trend is using IoT as wearable devices for monitoring of chronic diseases and early warning systems for patients at risk. These devices are also making hospital rooms smart.
  • Smart cities: IoT help in developing cities for smart lighting, smart irrigation, automated valet parking, environment sensible to check pollution levels and waste generation. IoT integration with the responsive cities will lessen traffic congestion, unlock sustainable development, and improve safety.
  • Empowered edge: With the increased computing power of the devices used in the IoT and reduction in cost due to economy of scale, it is possible to process the large data collected on the edge (on the device itself, before sending over the data) and allow huge bandwidth savings. In addition, it can ensure greater compliance with privacy regulations.
  • Distributed cloud: Increased computing power of the empowered edge devices allows data centers to be located anywhere. The benefit of having distributed cloud is that it can solve technical issues like latency and regulatory challenges like data sovereignty. Thus, it offers the benefits of a public cloud service along with a private cloud.
  • Data analytics: IoT technology will bring better data collection, transmission and better data analytics. Coupled with machine learning and AI will help in making better decisions.
  • Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT): It will help in predictive maintenance, energy and resources management solutions, which will result in increasing productivity, better optimization of resources and processes, reduction in operating costs, and improving operator safety.
  • Autonomous things: Drones, robots, and appliances will exploit AI to perform tasks usually done by humans.
  • Software as service (SaaS): It is becoming the norm in the IoT world. It is beneficial to both the clients (cost reduction) as well as service providers (due to economy of scale).
  • Smart home: With the help of speech or voice recognition systems, it is easier to control IoT devices. It is particularly useful in homes in controlling appliances, electrical systems, security apparatus etc. We will have smart homes using IoT devices in the future.

Some other trends due to IoT are auto-ML (Machine Learning) for data security, big data convergence, auto-ML for data security and personalization of the retail experience.

For mass scale adoption of IoT some concerns like security, privacy, interoperability, power consumption, and modular standards for communication between devices-to-devices and devices-over-the-internet will have to be addressed. Once addressed, they will bring significant benefits of IoT in our daily lives. In the area of security, some of the challenges and possible solutions thereof are discussed.

Security challenges
The proliferation of IoT devices across homes, cities, and industries will bring security challenges. Some of these challenges are:

  • The hijacking of IoT devices in case these have weak security mechanism.
  • Insufficient testing and lack of updates on IoT devices.
  • Home invasions wherever smart homes are there and security of the devices are not adequate.
  • Remote smart vehicle access: It is similar to home invasions.
  • Counterfeit IoT devices: Like smartphones this can be a major security threat if the unique, non-duplicable, non-tempered IoT Id of the devices is not maintained.
  • The security of data collected can be compromised using various types of cyber-attacks.
  • Access to data in a secure manner. It can be a challenge in case the data is stored outside the geographic boundaries.
  • Denial of service attack: The potential for disruption as a result of connectivity outages or device failures or arising as a result of attacks like DoS attacks may take place. This could mean loss of revenue and damage to equipment etc

Possible solutions
In order to tackle the above security challenges, there will be a need to:-

  • Ensure data privacy and integrity: It will have to be ensured that the data collected using IoT devices is stored and processed with utmost security.
  • Authorize and authenticate devices: Devices must establish their identity before they can access gateways and upstream services and apps
  • Secure communication: It becomes increasingly important to secure such data from unauthorized use and attacks.
  • Secure web, mobile, and cloud applications: Most of the data generated by the IoT ecosystem will reside in clouds which can either be located within the country or abroad. Security of the data thus stored falls under the jurisdiction of the country where the cloud is hosted. It needs to ensure that access to the data is available in secure manner for lawful interception purposes.
  • Predict and preempt security issues and ensure high availability: High availability of IoT devices and the connected systems needs to be ensure to protect IT infrastructure from possible cyber-attacks like DoS and mechanism should be there to overcome from their effects as quickly as possible.
  • Role-based access control (RBAC) for all the services offered by IoT based applications.
  • All data needs to be classified based on the security levels and critical data like user authentication data, should be stored in an encrypted manner in the storage systems.
  • All software and firmware of devices can be security-hardened to avoid backdoor entry attacks.
  • All computing systems should receive the latest security patches updates against known vulnerabilities.
  • Advanced security should be implemented to protect critical IT infrastructure in cloud and data centers.
  • Data integrity is a basic mechanism of verifying the data based on cryptographic hashes like the Secure Hash Algorithm (SHA).
  • The availability of Digital signatures will give a recipient a strong reason to believe that the message or file was created by a known sender.
  • IoT Security Awareness and Training needs to be imparted to ensure adequate awareness in this regard.

India can play a pivotal role in the development of the global IoT ecosystem both as a market and as an innovation hub by understanding IoT technology trends and addressing security and privacy concerns. India could also potentially leverage its large base of IT software workforce with the upcoming electronics and semiconductor manufacturing ecosystem (being driven by the Make in India program) and deliver innovative IoT products and solutions. Therefore, it is important that the IoT trends are tracked along with generating awareness and sharing of information about possible security threats. Continuous work is also needed to find solutions to the possible and probable threats; only then the world will be able to adopt the IoT based changes in all walks of our lives and will be able to reap the benefits from IoT.

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