Three decades ago, Tim Berners Lee brought us the Internet – and this was the first time the world was introduced to the magic of connected devices. Over the years, as devices have grown smaller and more compact, connections between devices have become more intricate.
Today, you can navigate a car’s routemap, manage the temperature of your home or scan your heart rate thanks to the power of sensor-enabled microchips. This is the true might of the Internet of Things.
Currently, management systems of an entire city is being planned on the cloud. This can radically ease up the workloads on personnel, ensure efficient and cost-effective automated systems that can effortlessly run diverse operations such as traffic, electricity, water, waste management and much more.
But, one targeted attack on this interconnected grid system can potentially throw it out of gear, rendering an entire city’s critical data vulnerable to attackers.
What We Really Need Is The Internet of (Secure) Things
As communities and countries are becoming more connected, the incidents of cybercrimes have also gone up. In a report by McAfee, the global cost of cybercrime could have been around $600bn in 2018. In India, incidents of cybercrime have gone up from 13,000 in 2011 to 300,000 by 2015, with industries like technology, telecom, financial services and automation being the most vulnerable.
India’s digital economy is poised to cross $ 1 trillion by 2022, predominantly powered by advanced technologies like IoT, AI, and blockchain. And security remains at the core of these technologies to ensure businesses can grow stronger and continue to generate profits.
Even as the nation continues to hurtle towards digitisation across all spheres of business, gaps and redundancies remain in security infrastructure. Organizations admittedly have a Herculean task in streamlining their existing frameworks, and the emergence of IoT has only made this a bigger challenge.
Currently, several Indian companies are assessing the various business benefits of IoT for their respective industries. Automation of existing processes involves bringing an entire data-driven infrastructure on one large, connected platform that is growing rapidly in a horizontal manner.
But are security layers growing with these connected devices?
Several existing IoT security solutions are based on legacy systems whereas the scope of IoT is immense, extending far beyond conventional networks. IoT is very closely linked to computing, analytics and big data, with a large part of these processes happening on the cloud. One of the biggest challenges faced by technology companies is the constantly-evolving nature of threats that are getting virulent and potent by the day so how do companies constantly upgrade their IoT networks to ensure these threats stay at bay?
For safer and stringent security standards within IoT devices, device manufacturers, vendors and the government need to collaborate and establish protocols for the industry. Currently, there are standalone security policies in place but device connectivity is only getting more advanced, and calls for a standardized, collaborative platform to mobilize the industry as a unit.
IoT Standardization The Need of the Hour
That the Indian market for IoT is massive has been weighing on the industry for a long time, as the time is ripe for establishing standard operating norms and enabling the next wave of digital transformation. This needs to be an industry-wide effort and steps are already being taken to encourage early adopters.
The Open Connectivity Forum is among the biggest IoT consortiums in the world, with more than 400 members, working on streamlining and securing the. Earlier this year, the Open Connectivity Foundation launched its India chapter to promote and enhance IoT standards in India. Samsung R&D Institute Bengaluru, Nasscom, Intel and L&T have announced the formation of the OCF India Ecosystem Task Force to increase awareness about global Internet of Things (IoT) standards and its benefits for the Indian IoT Industry.
This is among the leading efforts to drive the Indian IoT industry by encouraging standardisation protocols, and help Indian companies generate revenue from IoT services.
Not only does establishing standard protocols build an ecosystem but also encourages cybersecurity standards. For the industry to thrive, security standards must be implemented from the beginning and not as an after-thought. OCF, through the power of a collective, collaborative platform, leverages the security expertise of its members to address security concerns and eventually protect user interests.
IoT Encourages Plans for Smart Cities: But Are Security Concerns Being Addressed?
Such steps are of high relevance to India, which has an ambitious Smart Cities Programme. A draft IoT report by MeitY states that the Government of India plans to develop 100 Smart Cities in India, providing a huge impetus for the development of IoT in India.
Some critical areas that will be covered by the government’s smart cities include smart parking, intelligent transport systems, telecare, urban lighting, city maintenance, waste management and smart grids, throwing the arena wide open for startups and enterprises to be part of a digitally-driven change in India.
Understandably, cyber security of these networks are imperative. Recently, FICCI and KPMG released a joint report on Cybersecurity in Smart Cities, where it has discussed the pervasive impact of cyber threats on a city’s entire smart management system, and the need for a consortium of industry stakeholders to develop and establish safety protocols of IoT-based networks.
While a project as ambitious as smart cities can accelerate digital growth in India, the exposure and vulnerability of sensor networks can pose serious challenges, threatening the credibility of large-scale digitisation.
Data Security Council of India (A NASSCOM initiative) and PwC released a report on Creating Cyber Secure Smart Cities, whose analysis revealed that the current set of technologies powering India’s smart city services are prone to multiple vulnerabilities – which can result in serious social, economic, health and reputational risks. Some examples of risks include unencrypted storage and transmission of citizen data, lack of user access and authorisation controls, access to CCTV footage among several others.
Cybersecurity is a multi-billion dollar market; as is the Internet of Things. Attacks on IoT devices are becoming increasingly common – Irdeto research says eight of ten companies have reported attacks on their connected devices in the past year, compromising data, institutional integrity and operational downtime. Even though IoT’s propagation across sectors like transport, healthcare and manufacturing is relatively recent, these have been identified as high potential sectors for digital transformation. So it’s only prudent for stringent, industry-standard cybersecurity measures be enforced in early stages, and becoming a precursor for other industries to follow suit.