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Lack of Trust in IoT Security Shows More Regulation Is Coming

A new survey by Gemalto indicates that 96% of enterprises and 90% of consumers lack confidence in the security of Internet of Things (IoT) devices. The majority of 1,050 IT and business decision-makers and over 10,500 consumer respondents favor more government regulations to protect data across the IoT ecosystem.

Wherever you turn in the consumer, business, technology or government worlds, the Internet of things (IoT) is the hottest of all topics.

Whether the conversation is about clothes or medical devices, robots or bicycles, cloud computing or mobile wearables, traveling the world or staying home, the public or the private sector, rural communities or the world’s largest cities, everything is trying to become “smarter.”

People and organizations now demand constant connectivity with machine learning to make sense of the volumes of data providing better overall business value, effective customer service and perfected lifestyle outcomes. Even global cities are vying to be the top “smart city” in Europe or in the U.S. or in the entire world.

But what are the upsides and downsides to these smarter cities and smarter devices? Some reports say that smart cities are more vulnerable to attack.

New Survey Released on IoT Security Perspectives

A new report by Gemalto revealed some startling survey results:

  • Most organizations (96%) and consumers (90%) believe there is a need for IoT security regulations — and want government involvement.
  • A hacker controlling IoT devices is the most common concern for consumers (65%), while six in 10 (60%) worry about their data being stolen.
  • More than two-thirds (67%) of businesses encrypt all data captured or stored via IoT devices.
“It’s clear that both consumers and businesses have serious concerns around IoT security and little confidence that IoT service providers and device manufacturers will be able to protect IoT devices and more importantly the integrity of the data created, stored and transmitted by these devices,” said Jason Hart, CTO of Data Protection at Gemalto. “With legislation like GDPR showing that governments are beginning to recognize the threats and long-lasting damage cyber-attacks can have on everyday lives, they now need to step up when it comes to IoT security. Until there is confidence in IoT amongst businesses and consumers, it won’t see mainstream adoption.”


Note: You can download this full Gemalto infographic at this website.

Consumers’ main fear (cited by two thirds of respondents) is hackers taking control of their device. In fact, this was more of a concern than their data being leaked (60%) and hackers accessing their personal information (54%). Despite more than half (54%) of consumers owning an IoT device (on average two), just 14% believe that they are extremely knowledgeable when it comes to the security of these devices, showing education is needed among both consumers and businesses.

In terms of the level of investment in security, the survey found that IoT device manufacturers and service providers spend just 11% of their total IoT budget on securing their IoT devices. The study found that these companies do recognize the importance of protecting devices and the data they generate or transfer with 50% of companies adopting a security by design approach. Two-thirds (67%) of organizations report encryption as their main method of securing IoT assets with 62% encrypting the data as soon as it reaches their IoT device, while 59% encrypting as it leaves the device. Ninety-two percent of companies also see an increase in sales or product usage after implementing IoT security measures.  

According to the survey, businesses are in favor of regulations to make it clear who is responsible for securing IoT devices and data at each stage of its journey (61%) and the implications of noncompliance (55%). In fact, almost every organization (96%) and consumer (90%) is looking for government-enforced IoT security regulation.

Encouragingly, businesses are realizing that they need support in understanding IoT technology and are turning to partners to help, with cloud service providers (52%) and IoT service providers (50%) the favored options. When asked why, the top reason was a lack of expertise and skills (47%), followed by help in facilitating and speeding up their IoT deployment (46%).

Securing IoT Topic Is Not New — But Concerns Are Growing

As we head toward 2018, this IoT security topic is heating up, but the topic is certainly not new. I recently gave the closing keynote address at CyberMaryland in Baltimore on the topic of Securing IoT, and many questions came up regarding government regulations that are needed now.

This RSA 2017 presentation by Bruce Schneier is worth watching on the topic of regulating IoT.


Going further back, here are several other articles addressing this IoT Security topic:

GT magazine: Where Next On Internet of Things Security?

IoT Journal: Six Questions for IoT Security Expert Dan Lohrmann

CSO Magazine: Who Cares About Smart City Security?

GT magazine: New Guide Offers Guidance on Securing IoT Products

In 2016, after the Mirai botnet was used to bring down parts of the Internet by taking over insecure IoT devices, the question was whether insecure IoT Devices should be banned?

Also, the major security conferences around the country have become ongoing demonstrations for ways to hack IoT devices. I describe some of those examples and more from the 2017 RSA Conference in San Francisco in this free BrightTALK webcast, which requires registration.

Final Thoughts on Regulations Coming for IoT Security

Despite the fact that the current Congress tends to be for limiting regulation and cutting back on past rules that provide constraints on what businesses can offer consumers, the proliferation of insecure IoT devices is not helping to build consumer confidence or enterprise trust in new connected devices. With so much at stake, including the health and welfare of patients in hospitals, new semi-autonomous cars that rely on connectivity to communicate with other vehicles and roads, as well as critical infrastructure that continues to deploy smart grid technology and more, I foresee more government involvement with IoT in 2018 and beyond.

Some big questions include: How will IoT governance work? Who will be in control over what devices? What enforcement mechanisms will be put in place? When will the courts become even more involved in deciding what “due diligence” is required for IoT manufactures? Yes, consumers can make smart decisions when they purchase IoT devices, but secure options are often not available. Sadly, the situation continues to get worse as new smart devices are released every day.  

Many groups are working to develop answers to these questions right now. The surge in hacking IoT devices is not slowing down. More data breach headlines are certainly coming as well with an increasing number involving IoT devices.  

I expect that we will be seeing many more details on IoT security regulation in the coming year. The “survey says” that’s what consumers and businesses want. 

Daniel J. Lohrmann is an internationally recognized cybersecurity leader, technologist, keynote speaker and author.