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How we make the Internet of things (IoT) useful and secure

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The Internet of Things (IoT), connected devices or so called ‘smart-everything’ will offer opportunities for companies and organisations. According to industry estimates, the total number of IoT connections will grow from 6 billion in 2015 to 27 billion in 2025 creating a total of 2.7 trillion EURO in revenue.

All of the technology that makes this and so much more possible offers enormous opportunities. But at the same time, it also offers major challenges in the field of Privacy and Security.

While the IoT is entering daily life more and more, security risks around to IoT are becoming more evident in media and stories. With baby monitors hacked, data on the street and public camera’s hijacked. The cheap “always on” technology in stores right now does not have enough security measures, and users (consumers) are insufficient aware of this.

Dangerous IoT cyber attacks are no longer a matter of “if” but “when.”

What this IoT, everything smart is

The internet of things (IoT) is a popular collective name for the network of objects that is connected, online or in some way smarter than an object which is not.

Think of a thermostat that you can turn on when you’re not in home because it’s connected to the internet and thus your smart phone. Consider a device tracking the internal mechanisms of an energy producing windmill. Another example is to track animals in Africa, to prevent poaching of endangered species.

  • Today 71% of all IoT connections are connected using a short range technology. The big short-range applications, which cause it to be the dominant technology category, are consumer electronics, building security and building Automation.
  • The rest is used for Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) connections such as Sigfox, LoRaWAN and LTE-NB1.
  • Research predicts that soon almost half of the cellular connected devices will be in the ‘Connected Car’ sector. This is for example already happening with Tesla, as it features software (firmware) upgrade over the air, which makes going to the car dealer or garage obsolete for car owners.
  • By 2025, IoT will generate over 2 zettabytes (2e+9 terabytes or 2e12 gigabytes) of data, mostly generated by consumer electronics devices. That’s a lot of data…

 

To connect a physical device to the internet is smart, only when there’s useful data to be extracted, or when you want to be able to interact with it from a short or long distance.

Read more on predictions by one of the market leaders Machina.

Iot platform the hague security cyber

Some great IoT use cases

What is it for? Who is it for? For an individual it can be useful to set the thermostat at your home from your office. But is the most boring example, and is it really that smart? Would you do that? Organisations and companies can benefit way more from IoT.

Local municipalities are using it to track if a garbage collection point is full, to prevent the trucks from going there and not picking up actual trash. This works in a reactive way: pick up garbage here because the trackers says it’s full. Also this works in a data collection way: “There’s on average more garbage here than there, we need more points”.

In a reactive and a more informed way, devices can become ‘smarter’, making useful applications possible.

In another example, WeShareSolar enables people to leverage solar power even though they do not own the property to place solar panels. The realtime information of the production of energy of their solar panels (remotely) is important and useful. The locations of the panels are not guaranteed with WiFI coverage or any other form of internet access. This is where a low energy high range solution comes to work (like the The Things Network).

From these more complicated examples also come simple solutions closer to home, like a garage door that opens when the right car approaches. Or when you have a bed & breakfast or Home swap, your lock can be connected to enable your visitors to enter without someone else (the host) being present.

iot solar the hague den haag

Preventing the IoT ‘internet of shit’

You can go pretty far with examples, that’s what happened in the last years. To prevent the internet of shit, a future where everything uselessly and licentious is connected, a comedy account sprouted to life (assumed made by someone that works as a developer for a software company in the Netherlands).

“Have all of your best home appliances ruined by putting the internet in them!”

With your devices blackmailing you, unable to turn on a light when your internet is off or your fridge hacking your email address password.

How is IoT used in The Hague

KPN, headquarted in The Hague, sets the bar high for Internet of Things (IoT) solutions. They started the first LoRa pilot in The Hague and Rotterdam last year and since a few months the entire country is covered. The industry leading company offers industries, governments fertile platforms and solutions. From tracking luggage at airports to reactive and smart city lights.

The Things Network offers an open source, low cost and alternative to the wide coverage of KPN. In The Hague there’s a lively and growing community of hackers building great local applications, there are also regular events, check out our event page for updates.

iot den haag the hague internet of things the thing network

How to make IoT work and more secure

Webcams are often connected to the internet, which makes them part of the IoT world. Manufacturers of these cameras are in a race to bottom. Consumers do not perceive value in security and privacy. As a result, webcam manufacturers slash costs to maximize their profit, often on narrow margins. Many connected webcams now sell for as little as £15 or $20.

The consumers are saying: we’re not supposed to know anything about this stuff [referring to cybersecurity].

Most consumers fail to appreciate the consequences of purchasing insecure IoT devices. Worse, such a quantity of insecure devices makes the Internet less secure for everyone.

The Hague Security Delta is already getting involved. With providing their members with great challenges by organizations and companies. With more than 220 public and private partners – it has become the largest security cluster in Europe. Partners including companies such as Siemens, KPN, Nokia and Huawei, knowledge institutions as TNO and the Technical University of Delft and governments (Ministry of Security and Justice [V&J], National Police). Within this Dutch security cluster they cooperate to create and develop innovations in the field of security.

As we expand that connectivity, when we get into systems that affect public safety and human life—medical devices, the automotive space, critical infrastructure—the consequences of failure are high.

Admiring the problem is easy. Finding solutions is harder. ‘I Am The Cavalry‘, a group of concerned security researchers focused on critical infrastructure, is working on a five-star rating system for consumer IoT, with Security researcher Brian Knopf as its leading figure. The Netherlands based Hackerone (Groningen & The Hague), heavily funded the quest into flaws in IoT, also offering solutions along the way.

In even more uplifting news, NXP, a founding partner of the European Cyber Security Organization (ECSO), signed a key contract with the European Commission to establish a strategic alliance in cybersecurity. ECSO members are to jointly invest an additional €1.3 billion into research and development of innovative and trusted cybersecurity solutions, products and services.

How you can get involved with IoT

As users and consumers we need to be aware of the consequences of internet connected devices. Be aware of the price of a device, relating to the quality. If it’s too cheap to make sense, it probably is not the best and most secure device out there.

The Hague Security Delta hosts lots of great events on, that’s right, security of technology.

Together we have to make sure that all new technology you put on the market goes beyond a simple hack or minimum viable product (MVP). The way that we make it should be secure by design, which also means that privacy always needs to be taken into account. 

Further reading and challenges