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Internet of Things Raises Risk Concerns

While there are many benefits and opportunities to having so much connectivity, there are also serious security and cybersecurity threats that will need addressing.

Mickey McCarter

A new video game called “Watch Dogs,” released May 27, features a protagonist who can hack into the city infrastructure of Chicago and thus control or destroy physical systems, among other things.

In remarks at ISC West in April, Steve Van Till, president and CEO of Brivo Systems, pointed to the game as reflecting real-life concerns about connecting many different objects to the Internet in the “Internet of Things.” The SIA Government Summit, on June 3-4 will also feature a panel on this topic.

Speaking during a panel titled “The Great Debate: Use It or Lose It!” in Las Vegas, Van Till cited estimates that one billion items were connected to the Internet four or five years ago. According to projections by Cisco Systems Inc., about 50 billion things could be connected to the Internet by the end of the decade.

There are good and bad aspects to all of this connectivity, Van Till suggested. Increased connectivity to the Internet leads to greater surveillance opportunities and more ease of access, both of which can be beneficial.

The more things that are network-enabled, the more data they collect and share, which is good for security. Previously, companies would explicitly install motion detectors, but now a refrigerator door or a thermostat can act as a motion detector when people encounter those items, providing “a huge opportunity to extract security value of it.”

Related: Can You Really Future-Proof an IP Network?

But as home automation increases over the next 10 years, the security industry could lose marketshare in that space if it’s not prepared, Van Till warned. Today, up to 90 percent of home automation comes from the security industry but in a decade that could fall steeply to 10 percent as traditional security companies lose ground to cable and telephone companies.

Speaking on the same panel, Jay Hauhn, vice president of product management and industry relations at Tyco Integrated Security, welcomed new entrants into the security business.

“New entrants coming into the market is probably good for the market, because it drives innovation and changes the way things are done,” Hauhn declared.

Such adaptability makes the experience of using security systems better for customers, Hauhn said. Door contacts represent technology that is 100 years old; motion detectors, 40 years old. Security engineers must have fresh ideas to remain relevant, Hauhn said.

As for firms like cable companies and telephone service providers having entered the security marketplace — “They are now us,” Hauhn added.

And as people become increasingly connected, they are going to look to their mobile devices as a method of access control to physical spaces, argued Fredrik Nilsson, general manager for North America at Axis Communications.

Today’s college kids indicate in polls that the one thing they do not want to leave their home without is their cell phones, Nilsson said at the ISC West panel. It’s only a matter of time before they start expecting to receive ease of access through the one device that is most important to them.

Thus “bring your own credential” (BYOC) is the way of the future, Van Till agreed, particularly as people increasingly tire of having access cards on hand for one limited purpose. By incorporating credentials into mobile devices, security companies may reduce fatigue of using cards and readers, and thereby ultimately strengthen security compliance.

Hauhn warned that access cards are “not even close to dead,” however. Marketing and sales, rather than security, will drive the expansion of mobile access technologies like near field communication (NFC) in the near term, Hauhn said. Security will tag along after the fact.

But as the actions of the hacker in the “Watch Dogs” video game remind us, networking everything together is going to create a lot of cybersecurity risks. The ISC West panel agreed that doing so creates new kinds of crime and new kinds of risks; will the security and integration industry be ready with new kinds of solutions?