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Cyber security is changing the definition of things

Securing IoT will likely be the single most important endeavour of modern industrialised era

Gulf News

I invite you to look up the definition of the ‘Internet of things’ in the Oxford Dictionary.

You will find the term included as meaning, “The interconnection via the internet of computing devices embedded in everyday objects, enabling them to send and receive data.” That reads like a pretty fair description. However, what makes this regular entry into a regular dictionary so singularly extraordinary, is in the choice of example the Oxford Dictionary uses to capture the essence of the meaning, which reads, ‘If one thing can prevent the Internet of things from transforming the way we live and work, it will be a breakdown in security’.

In a publication as intellectually and ideologically neutral as the Oxford Dictionary, an immediate link has been drawn between the burgeoning Internet of Things (IoT) landscape, and the fact that security — cyber security — stands at the centre of its success or failure. This is seminal thinking.

Should mainstream, public outlook be moving in the direction of acknowledging the vital role that cyber security plays in safeguarding digital environments now and into the future, then we stand a real chance of making long-term, sustainable gains in this regards.

Technology alone will not cyber secure digital transformation. Understanding that it is human beings who will ultimately interact with or benefit from interconnected technologies at the start, during, or at the end of a transaction means beyond the technology’s inbuilt protection mechanisms, is the requirement for the entire system to be trusted.

Significantly, trust cannot be established by technology alone either, and rather is based on three legs incorporating technology and tokens; policy and procedures; and relationships and responsibilities. Each of these three areas is fundamental in establishing the ‘triangle of security’, which seeks to ensure the confidentiality, availability, and integrity of digital environments at all times.

Statistics possess powerful voices. It is estimated that there are 3.5 billion online users in the world today. There are approximately 1.5 billion websites that can be accessed on the internet, and the number of connected things is estimated to have experienced a 30 per cent growth rate this year. There are thought to be 6.5 billion things connected to the internet, and by 2020 industry commentators forecast there will be 200 billion connected things on the planet.

Taken together these statistics signify that digitisation is part of our present and shall lie at the centre of our future. Securing it will likely be the single most important endeavour of the modern industrialised era, and it would be a good thing to be able to have a head start in placing the necessary cyber security infrastructure, policies and procedures in place.

The recent distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks in the US and Liberia, which were orchestrated through the use of compromised, low security IoT devices, is a prime example of the threat that exists in a hyper-connected environment. Threat actors are becoming adept at scanning networks and systems for their weakest point to exploit, and then targeting higher value assets through this point of vulnerability.

In an IoT environment, the entire system is high value and should be secured as such. There is little room for error as not doing so could jeopardise further digitisation, which put another way, jeopardises the very basis of our economies and societies.

The writer is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of DarkMatter, an international cyber security company based in the UAE, which is empowering digitisation globally. He can be reached on Twitter @albannai_faisal