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Winning the IoT tug of war

Derek Manky, Global Security Strategist, Fortinet | Feb. 11, 2015
In the next few years, businesses may live or die by IoT. Handle it well and your company thrives; mess it up and you may be faced with an exodus of customers and employees.

This vendor-written piece has been edited by Executive Networks Media to eliminate product promotion, but readers should note it will likely favour the submitter's approach.

There has been plenty of buzz around the Internet of Things (IoT) lately, with discussions around the business opportunities it offers, the conveniences it can potentially bring to the public, and of course, the implications on privacy and data security.

IoT is part of a journey, as the world transitions from Machine-to-Machine (M2M) communications through IoT to the Internet of Everything (IoE). There are three main drivers for it — the proliferation of connected devices globally, the explosive growth of platform independent applications, and mature networking technologies that could connect billions of disparate devices cheaply and effortlessly.

IoT brings about several benefits, including real-time insight/intelligence, 24/7 availability, automation, convenience and cost effectiveness. Enterprises, government agencies and consumers can all benefit from it.

The market opportunities are enormous. Gartner, for instance, estimates that IoT (projected to be made up of some 26 billion devices by 2020) product and service suppliers will generate incremental revenue exceeding $300 billion in 2020. IDC forecasts that the worldwide market for IoT solutions will grow from $1.9 trillion in 2013 to $7.1 trillion in 2020.

Data Loss through IoT a Threat to the Business

IoT will transform the way we do things — be it communicating with people, collaborating or transacting. Many innovative solutions and services will also be created around IoT.

The downside, however, is that IoT will bring substantially higher security risks. First of all, IoT puts a lot more information and activities online. These information and activities can be easily compromised because of two reasons — the exposure of the network is vastly increased with the introduction of IoT devices, and the software powering the IoT devices are often insecure and easily hackable.

In an era when customers and employees expect companies to protect their personal data, this can be a lethal combination. Firms today have the responsibility to safeguard not just their own business assets, but client and staff information on compensation, wealth status, buying and search history, and other sensitive data. This shift from merely protecting customers against unauthorised credit card transactions to safeguarding their personal information and privacy is happening globally, and a violation of these duties could seriously jeopardise a business.

According to a recent Fortinet global survey on IoT, for instance, 62 percent of the respondents said that they would feel "completely violated and extremely angry to the point where I would take action" if they learn that an IoT device in their home was secretly collecting information about them and sharing it with others. If a known IoT device collects data, 66 percent of the respondents insist that only they themselves or parties to whom they have given permission be allowed to access those data.   


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