IoT: Insecurity of Things or Internet of Threats?Security leaders call for device manufacturers to buckle down on device security as the Internet of Things evolves.
CYBERSEC EUROPEAN CYBERSECURITY FORUM - Kraków, Poland - If cybersecurity was a health issue, "we would call it a pandemic," Sir Julian King, European commissioner for the UK Security Union said in his opening keynote remarks here this week.
Europeans were subject to two billion data breaches last year, and the threat is poised to escalate, he said.
The Internet of Things is pushing billions of connected devices online, he noted. Last year's Mirai malware attack, which mobilizes hundreds of thousands of devices as bots, highlighted the vulnerability of the Internet of Things and served as an example of what could go wrong.
"Today, connectivity isn't just about phones and laptops, it's about homes and hospitals, governments and electricity grids," he noted, adding that products in industrial control systems often rely on uncertified, off-the-shelf software.
Manufacturers forget security or don't give it enough profile or importance, he said. Update policies are often unclear, encryption isn't being used, and unnecessary ports, hardware, and code make attack surfaces larger than they need to be.
"We need to move to a world in which there are no default passwords on connected devices, where connected devices and software are updatable for their entire lifespan," he urged.
Melissa Hathaway, president of Hathaway Global Strategies and former cybersecurity advisor for the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations, called for higher software standards and said manufacturers should prioritize both security by design and safety by design.
The need to patch a product suggests it wasn't securely designed to begin with, she continued. We don't "patch" drugs when something is wrong; we recall them. The same goes for automobiles. Why not recall connected devices when a dangerous vulnerability is found?
"The IoT is either the insecurity of things, or the Internet of threats. It's an unbelievable risk we have to manage," Hathaway said during a panel entitled "Internet & Things: Will They Live Happily Ever After?"
She referred to the medical device industry as an example. Products like pacemakers and insulin pumps were never designed with the idea someone would cause harm. Now they're wireless devices that must be updated, and people have died, she added.
"At some point, we need to get to a more responsible discussion about responsible disclosure and corporate responsibility," said Hathaway. "We have to actually fix these problems."
Alastair Teare, CEO at Deloitte in central Europe, said the danger of the IoT is both a security and governance issue. Companies are ill-equipped to put governance around IoT security, and the government needs to engage with businesses to ensure proper frameworks are in place.
"The problem is playing catchup, and we're not doing very well, in my opinion," he said. "Huge problems need to be addressed and we need to get on with it, because it's going to get worse."
Allan Friedman, director of cybersecurity initiatives at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration at the US Department of Commerce, said if we're going to expect manufacturers to be more secure, "we're going to have to be as explicit as possible."
However, he said, there is a problem with creating standards for devices connected to the IoT.
Creating standards involves using standards for static risks, he explains. However, software doesn't have static risks, and we're going to end up with unknown states. Focusing on an adaptive model for risks is one of the paths forward as the IoT continues to evolve.
"Perfect security is not something you can expect," Friedman said. "The challenge with any certification is it's a snapshot; it's a moment in time. We're predicting based on certain values, and that's really hard. Most things were thought secure at one point."
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Kelly Sheridan is Associate Editor at Dark Reading. She started her career in business tech journalism at Insurance & Technology and most recently reported for InformationWeek, where she covered Microsoft and business IT. Sheridan earned her BA at Villanova University. View Full Bio