There’s a lot of confusion around the ‘Internet of Things’ or IoT as its known. A lot of people still think of it as some obscure sci-fi kind of technology that is still far off from becoming reality. But the truth is that IoT is already all around us. Internet-enabled devices are literally everywhere, in a countless variety of forms and applications. The relentless advances in broadband technology and computing power has made it impossible to stay disconnected.
Securing IoT infrastructure
IoT essentially is a catch-all term used for any kind of network of remotely controlled internet-enabled devices that can collect and report data that can be monitored, processed and analysed, often in real-time. This can be anything from security doors to highway e-ticketing systems, to smart home devices like Alexa or Google Home to entire city infrastructures.
This connectivity is what powers IoT, but it also creates a whole new set of challenges.
Namely, it makes these systems more vulnerable to cybersecurity threats and data leaks that can cripple entire networks, cause major financial losses and put users at risk through data leaks.
Juniper Research reports that as many as 46 billion IoT devices are expected to be online by 2021. At the same time, industry reports suggest that the financial losses caused by data breaches2017 and 2022 can soar to $8 trillion USD globally.
Securing IoT networks is a top priority and will be critical for its growth.
That means the technology needs a future-compatible, flexible and highly scalable approach to cybersecurity. This is a massive shift from the current ad-hoc approach to cyber security which involves rectifying holes and flaws only after the damage has been done, and that too without considering long-term systemic problems.
As IoT grows and finds more applications in commerce, industry and infrastructure, more and more formerly isolated systems are now coming online and being integrated into vast networks, amplifying the security risk considerably.
There is a huge demand for a secure way to scale up IoT. Blockchain technology may just be the answer.
Securing IoT with Blockchain tech
From the very outset, Blockchain and its core technology were designed with a radical approach to privacy and security. The prominence of Blockchain applications in the world of finance and technology, the cryptocurrency revolution and the reinvention of digital payments has demonstrated the viability of Blockchain’s approach to cybersecurity.
This same technology could prove to be a game-changer for IoT infrastructure security.
A Blockchain-based cybersecurity platform could be used to assign digital IDs to individual IoT devices and add them to a Blockchain, creating a virtual security ring’ around them that renders them inaccessible to unauthorised parties. Each authenticated device joining the Blockchain will be treated as a participating entity, just like in a conventional Blockchain network. All data and communication between authenticated devices will be cryptographically secured, with every interaction recorded in a tamper-proof digital log.
Such a system can also be designed with Software-Defined Perimeter (SDP) architecture, which uses a ‘need-to-know’ model for device identification.Devices will only be visible to each other after they’ve been authenticated, meaning that they would functionally be ‘invisible’ to outside networks, providing an extra layer of security.
How Blockchain can move IoT adoption forward
A Blockchain network, by design, is decentralised, denying cyber attackers a single point of failure they could exploit to gain access.
Consensus-based control protocols mean that the responsibility for securing the network is shared across multiple nodes, making it impossible to spoof or and resistant to DDoS attacks.
Such a distributed architecture also means the security solution is highly scalable, which is one of the biggest bottlenecks in wide-scale IoT adoption. With every new device added to or removed from such a system, every participant is immediately notified of the change, making the entire network adaptable, automated and future-proof. Devices and systems can be upgraded individually without having to overhaul the entire platform all at once.
Such a system can secure smart homes, self-driving vehicles, drones, industrial systems, even entire smart cities. A Blockchain security solution offers next-generation cybersecurity, protecting key networks from present-day vulnerabilities and cyber risks, but also from emerging vulnerabilities as the network can be upgraded on-the-go.
This is an extremely important capability because as the pace of development accelerates, there will be huge swathes of IoT infrastructure operating at vastly different levels of technology which all have to work together seamlessly and at a massive scale. Integrating the strengths of Blockchain technology with IoT infrastructure can propel entire industries, cities and governments into an integrated digital age, easing the cost and burden of technological transition and securing complex multi-generational networks without slowing down the pace of innovation. There are already a number of groups and start-ups working to develop Blockchain cyber security platforms, and there are many promising solutions under development. It is only a matter of time before the industry moves beyond the research and development stage and begins practical implementation. Once proven, the IoT industry is forecasted to accelerate by leaps and bounds, changing the way we network devices in the future.