The best and worst match ever: IoT and cloud cybersecurity

If you informed someone in 1988 that in thirty years’ time we’d be nearing a society where everything is connected to the web, they’d probably say you were insane. If you told someone in 1995 that you could one day run everything from data processing to your entire infrastructure in a decentralized fashion through the Internet, they probably wouldn’t believe you. Yet this is the world we now live in.

In a way, it couldn’t be better. The Internet of Things has the potential to change how we live and work in some very real, very incredible ways. New workflows, better insights into our businesses and clientele, greater convenience than ever before…and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

None of this would be possible without the cloud. In many ways, it is the foundation of the Internet of Things – the backbone that makes a hyperconnected world possible. That in turn is forcing something of an evolution in the cloud, one which could have some fascinating results.

“We live in a real world where bandwidth is neither infinite nor free,” Cisco’s Todd Baker explained to BizTech Magazine in a 2014 interview. “There’s a lot of data being generated. We talk about 50 billion sensors by 2020. If you look today at all the sensors that are out there, they’re generating 2 exabytes of data. It’s too much data to send to the cloud. There’s not enough bandwidth, and it costs too much money.”

Cloud computing has evolved to meet the occasion, forming something known as fog or edge computing – essentially a decentralization of an already-decentralized system. Through edge devices capable of processing, analyzing, and examining IoT data, fog computing allows for faster, better connectivity across the board. And that in turn allows us to connect ever more devices to the web, to make our world ever more connected.

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Fog computing isn’t the only way IoT is pushing an evolution in the cloud. We’re seeing more cloud-based endpoint management platforms and data analytics tools than ever. And that’s not going to change – demand will continue to skyrocket.

So what’s the problem, exactly?

Security. IoT is still in a transitional period, and no one knows who should be responsible for keeping endpoints secure. Manufacturers say it’s the vendor’s responsibility. Vendors say it’s the customer’s responsibility. Customers just want to be able to order more milk with their fridge.

In other words, we’ve got an exponentially expanding threat surface that consists largely of poorly-secured consumer devices. It’s a cybersecurity powder keg waiting for someone to light a match. InfoWorld’s David Linthicum said it best:

“We finally just got cloud security right, and now we’re screwing it up with new thermostats and copiers that make all that good security worthless…Many IoT devices are easily-hacked, and so can easily become agents for the hackers lying in wait to grab network data and passwords, and even breach cloud-based systems that did not take into account access from within the company firewall.”

This is a huge issue, and the reason that, in spite of all the positive growth we’ve seen in the cloud thanks to the Internet of Things, it’s also one of the worst things to ever happen to the cloud.

I have no doubt that eventually, IoT security will sort itself out. There are some really great minds working on creating standards for IoT devices, and some of the world’s best organizations are working to create better, more secure solutions. Until such time as we’re all on equal footing, though?

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The relationship between IoT and Cloud will continue to be one of dysfunction.

About the author

— Tim Mullahy

Tim is the Executive Vice President and Managing Director at Liberty Center One, a new breed of data center located in Royal Oak, MI. Tim has a demonstrated history of working in the information technology and services industry.

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