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Security and "The Internet of things"

by Juniper Employee on ‎05-08-2012 09:24 AM

Next to “cloud” and “big data”, the “Internet of Things” is one of the most brandied phrase in the tech world. What really is the “Internet of Things”? In a nutshell, it is embedding unique identification mechanisms into a myriad of everyday objects – refrigerators, temperature sensors, retail inventory, smart meters – so they can talk and be spoken to. Interestingly this explosion of “Internet of Things” further exacerbates the need for “big data” analysis that is most effectively accomplished in a “cloud” environment. How’s that for tying the top three brandied phrases into one coherent (?) sentence!

But if one were to put on the security hat, the Internet of Things presents a very daunting security challenge – how to ensure that these connected devices are protected from the attacks that were hitherto restricted to computers & mobile devices? Apart from the wide heterogeneity of these devices, their processing prowess and limited memory make the applicability of traditional security mechanisms difficult if not impossible. The contrarian view of “let’s not secure these devices” also does not hold water since the impact of somebody getting to these devices could be devastating – case in point being a diabetic patient’s automatic glucose monitoring system being compromised by an attacker.

So where does that leave us? An explosion of connected devices, each device unique and different from one another, each serving a very narrow but critical purpose, and securing these devices is of unquestionable importance! How does security need to evolve to keep pace with this trend? Watch this space!

by rahul janbade
on ‎05-10-2012 11:56 PM

This is an interesting article and brings in lot of brainstroming for the next big things on IP and cloud.


The solution could be to check the healthiness of the system by not one but say two-three different entities. These 3rd parties to check on the healthiness of the system all the time shall play a crucial role.


It is high time we should start with this process on existing PCs/ Laptops/ PDA/ smartphone / tables and mobile phones now itself to reach a level to provide the best possible security on real time and continuos basis.


However I do not see these initiatives a lot except for say Microsoft providing security patches and continuos check on its own OS sold in the market.












by Mike Tappenden
on ‎05-13-2012 06:17 PM

Hi Rahul and Ashwin,

As someone who is keeping a close eye on the "Internet of Things" phenomenon, and has worked on strategies for securing devices in the Smart Grid space, I think it is clear that there is no magic bullet, and there can't be. After all, the need (ie. risk implications) for protecting the integrity of data for my electricity meter or glucose monitor will never be the same as, say the little devices monitoring my solar panel or pool temperature, as a crude example. And one embedded sensor device is not the same as the next. Some have operating systems, some just run raw microcontroller code, so very different vulnerability profiles.


How will it evolve? To get an insight, I would recommend following some of the blogosphere around Smart Grid security or industrial control system security in general. These folks have been grappling with this issue for a few years now, before anyone came up wioth the "Internet of Things" term. A good one is the Smart Grid Security Blog ( but there are many like this.


My view is that many new strategies and capabilities will find their way into embedded hardware to handle issues such as communications & protocol security, device tampering, malware-from-the-factory (supply chain security), not to mention new methodologies around assessing threats and risks for I-o-T devices. 


There is no question these devices will be prime hacker tackets and it will be exciting to follow the evolution of security in this area. IN the industrial and critical infrastructure sectors old enterprise security approaches are all of a sudden relevant again. Tools such as Application whitelisting, honey-pots, continuous monitoring (as Rahul alluded to), embedded application firewalls (See Eric Byres/Tofino firewall for example) are making a comback where they largely strugged in Enterprise networks to be effective.


Anyway that's my view of the world. 

Thanks guys for posing the question.







by Juniper Employee
on ‎05-15-2012 10:58 AM

Rahul and Mike,

Thanks for the comments. I agree in principle with both of you. Mike - your assessment about these "silicon cockroaches" all being somewhat dissimilar in their CPU, OS and memory footprint and therefore the ability to have a "one size fits all" security posture is somewhat simplistic. I would even extend the argument to say that some of these devices are more "critical" to our collective health than others and therefore deserve more attention aka health monitoring devices versus a web enabled smart  refrigerator. 

The point you raised about the traditional enterprise security arsenal of DDoS protection, firewalls, IDP etc. would now be increasingly relevant in this disaggregated connected devices and the propensity for a collection of these devices for instance to launch a DDoS attack could be staggering indeed !

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