As we look ahead to this year and beyond, we can expect to see an explosion in numbers—think billions—with respect to 5G networks connecting Internet of Things (IoT) devices. The IoT will be a system of many millions of different types of devices for a multitude of applications. Such devices will communicate autonomously with each other and their users via the cloud.
We can expect to see mobile network operators (MNOs) implementing these new 5G standards in their networks to make the IoT a reality, and we will certainly witness a huge shift of enterprise computing function to the edge. You won’t have to rely on a data center—effectively, you will be able to put that in “next to” your workforce.
A 5G world is the services that IT can provide through software-defined networking (SDN) and the virtual network functions at the edge—the need for MNOs to be able to scale on demand for their users’ needs becomes much more important. From a security point of view, consumers will simply be able to turn on a firewall—no fuss, and they can click a button that is virtualized and on the edge of the network. This makes it much easier to deploy the latest security; it’s all virtualized and close to the end user.
The era of 5G should be a great thing because it will accelerate the use and development of real-time applications. But with all this increased data going through a device or through a pipeline, you will certainly need more control of that data, and you’ll need tools that allow IT departments to be able to control it—especially from a security perspective, but also from a performance perspective. A massive proliferation is expected in IoT devices, and they will all be feeding massive amounts of data to the edge. A huge problem here is that none of the current security protocols regarding the IoT are standardized, and this presents a massive security risk to the world of 5G.
Imagine all these connected having no security standard for how they secure and authenticate with each other. Telcos and infrastructure firms will no doubt praise 5G for a wide variety of industrial use cases. However, if 5G is to be used for crucial industrial processes—think actual business impact—then you face a potentially risky scenario: when you have industrial environments using out-of-date legacy technology, it’s a sure bet hackers will begin to target these environments, with potentially very damaging results.
Traditional security approaches against the most obvious attacks on security are insufficient. We need solutions that can enable IoT devices to learn and adapt to various threats dynamically, in order to be able to address them in a more proactive fashion. Machine-learning (ML) techniques could be employed that provide both intelligence and the ability to reconfigure assorted IoT devices. The integration of the IoT with big data and cloud computing presents new challenges, such as data analytics, integration and storage—not the least of which are privacy and security concerns regarding sensor-generated data from misuse, theft or unfortunate losses.
Perhaps blockchain will provide the answers. There are those who believe blockchain can undertake some of the challenges presented by IoT security, for which you have myriad distributed devices that work well with the decentralized nature of blockchain. There again, perhaps blockchain is initially better suited in helping to secure the integrity of data within connected devices. Artificial-intelligence (AI) solutions also offer tremendous potential here. With the current state of AI maturity, products that are carefully designed for specific use cases will be more effective than those offering a more blanket approach.
Could 2020 herald the first instances of real adoption of AI within industrial enterprises—more specifically, vertical use cases in the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) landscape? I think so. As we see the use of artificial intelligence growing and maturing, we should witness a more targeted use, making it more precise overall.
IoT devices, as well as their associated connections to networks and the cloud, remain a weak link in security. With an ever-growing volume of personal data that will need to be secured against attacks and theft, a more comprehensive approach to IoT security will be necessary, with solutions that manage challenges across all industry and business sectors.
If you have any questions about how we can help you optimize you protect your business against cyberattacks, contact us today to help you out with your performance and security needs.
*This article originally appeared in RFID Journal on February 2, 2020