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Thursday, 02 June 2016 17:31

Lack of security could dampen IoT deployments

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IoT security isn't a done deal, but blockchain technology may be able to assist.

"We cannot have an IoT ecosystem without security we can trust," CA Technologies chief technology officer Otto Berkes told iTWire.

There have already been examples of cars being hacked (despite the 2014 warning from QUT professor Andry Rakotonirainy that this was a possibility), and the problem becomes even more serious as autonomous vehicles become an everyday reality.

The problem might be less spectacular in other areas, but that does not mean it is less significant.

Berkes said the issue would become even more important as the density of connected devices increases and the distance of control increases. The latter point refers to the situation where rather than one system — possibly with a human operator  giving instructions to a device, a device asks another to help perform a task, and that one asks another, and so on.

"In my mind, it's a form of distributed complexity," Berkes said. "We need to be confident that all communications are secure, and that the devices are reliable and act in a predefined way."

While various technologies exist to address these matters, the attack surface is increasingly non-linearly so any vulnerabilities are likely to be discovered, potentially by the Bad Guys.

"Heterogeneity is a challenge" as standards for communications protocols and other aspects are still emerging. But he praised those who drove the adoption of IPv6, because "this is the use case" that requires it.

IoT represents "one of the most interesting applications of blockchain technology," according to Berkes, as it could allow the creation of a ledger as transactions (eg, commands) are passed between devices and are processed. This would allow verification that the data added to the chain is correct.

While devices have limited compute power and other resources, there are lightweight algorithms that are suited to this purpose, he said. "We've seen an explosion of blockchain technologies" addressing different uses.

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Stephen Withers

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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.

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