Gartner predicts that number of Internet of Things (IoT) devices in use worldwide will grow from an estimated 5 billion in 2015 to some 25 billion connected devices by 2020. The best business strategies will perfectly balance the ever-growing IoT market opportunities versus a rapidly evolving threat environment. To help IoT solution providers define their 2016 product roadmap, here are some IoT-related predictions for the year:
- IoT hype will become reality. For the past few years, we’ve been inundated with stories of IoT solutions that were either ahead of their time or just outlandish ideas not aimed at solving any pressing problem. Today, IoT use cases that once seemed to be material for sci-fi movies are part of our every day digital life. The recently released Adobe Digital Trends Report indicates that “51% of smartphone owners have already interacted with home electronic IoT devices.” Imagining a world where you wake up and your house is already heated to a comfortable temperature and your coffee is ready, not based on a preset time, but based on when you actually woke up, doesn’t sound so crazy anymore. In 2016 there will be a growing number of authentic success stories where the IoT provides real value to consumers and enterprises.
- Hacks will increase in scope and complexity. The IoT will become an ever more fertile attack surface for governments, cybercriminals, hacktivists, and even terrorists. As IoT creates many new and potentially more harmful, even lethal security threats, hackers will exploit IoT vulnerabilities not only for political or financial gains, but also for thrill seeking, technical hubris, and moral reasons by targeting companies they believe are negligent or doing wrong. A series of high-profile car hijackings last summer opened the eyes of consumers and device manufacturers to the dangers of the IoT. But this is just the tip of the iceberg; many IoT devices can become a lethal weapon if hacked, and in 2016 we’ll see the number and complexity of threats to IoT device users increase.
- Greater data privacy issues will be exposed. The volume and type of data collected by IoT devices and stored in the cloud can expose extremely sensitive information in a variety of formats. Smart devices like coffee makers, refrigerators, baby monitors, cars, wearables, and medical devices are often owned by wealthier and therefore more lucrative targets. As a result, data privacy threats, like Ransomware, will extend to IoT devices, which collect personal information, but lack appropriate security features. In 2016, this data will increasingly be used by criminals to threaten a collision among connected cars, exposure of personal information to the highest bidder for nefarious purposes, or the locking of a medical device unless a ransom is paid.
- IoT security standards will evolve. New standards are critical to ensure secure and interoperable IoT devices. Today’s consumer IoT market is loosely regulated and lacks security and safety standards. Other markets, such as medical, manufacturing, automotive and transportation, have security and safety standards that must be updated to include IoT devices. In 2016, IoT device makers and solution providers will either help to define new IoT ecosystem security standards that ensure both the efficiency and security promise of the IoT are realized or be threatened by lawmakers into compliance.
- Manufacturers will get serious about security. In 2016, security will become a competitive differentiator as enterprises and consumers become more security conscious. In turn, IoT device manufacturers will stop treating security as an afterthought and start implementing security during production. Vendors that anticipate and bring best-fit security to the IoT market will help device makers address the need for authentication, secure communication, information protection, and user privacy. IoT solution providers that can balance the value of a hack versus the associated risk and costs of implementation will be able to defend a competitive advantage.
As our daily lives become more digitally dependent, our computing needs are changing, and our security stance must change from reactive to proactive. 2016 will mark a turning point in the IoT industry. Key industry players will collaborate more effectively to see that new security models and standards that address the unique security demands of the IoT are implemented. As consumers and enterprises begin to demand products with built-in security features, including authentication and encryption, the industry will respond to ensure that the entire IoT ecosystem is protected—we stand to lose too much if we spend another year taking the wait-and-see approach.
Trevor Daughney is the Executive Vice President at Inside Secure. He holds an MBA from the Haas School of Business, University of California Berkeley. A native of Canada, Trevor studied at Queen’s University where he holds a B.A.H in Political Science.