How to Survive and Thrive in Our Hyperconnected World

Using the conveniences of smart devices without giving due attention to the myriad new risk vectors they expose is foolish. It's on us to make this new, connected world cyber-resilient.

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A ballot box, a warning sign, and a hacker mask
Illustration: © IoT For All

As the concept of the Internet of Things (IoT) celebrates its 20th year, it’s worth considering how far the idea has come in such a relatively short amount of time. Technology is moving at such a rapid pace that we’re now talking about the Enterprise of Things, which refers to internet-enabled machines, devices, networks and apps that connect businesses. We’re even starting to discuss the Internet of Everything in an attempt to acknowledge how hyperconnected our world is today.

Security

With this trend accelerating ever further, the challenge of securing “all the things” becomes even greater. The sheer scale of this task can often get lost in the complexity of achieving it, but to appreciate its importance, it helps to take a step back and consider some examples.

Until recently, planes were seemingly the last bastion of disconnected peace and quiet. But with WiFi now increasingly available on short- and long-haul flights, and with the dawn of the era of 5G, air travel has opened a potential attack vector that could have deadly consequences.

Soldiers risking their lives to protect national security now rely on wearable technology to the extent that gadgets and devices run up and down their arms and legs. These devices communicate battlefield orders and other highly-critical information, but if they aren’t secure and become hacked, soldiers could unknowingly walk straight into the line of fire.

The elections in the U.S. and around the world have shown that democracy can also be susceptible to a lack of security. Ballot boxes that use technology in an attempt to secure and enable democracy are at risk of being hacked, which could ultimately subvert the very institution voting seeks to uphold.

If these scenarios sound somewhat farfetched or removed from most people’s daily experiences, consider the issue of smart homes. From smart displays and speakers to internet-enabled light bulbs, we are incorporating technology that makes our homes more convenient and responsive to our needs. This also opens up attack vectors that allow malicious actors to unlock a front door or garage and access someone’s property. Convenience without security is simply an open invitation for risk.

Healthcare is another area that impacts our everyday lives. Pacemakers are now connected to the internet to enable software updates and to allow doctors to change the settings depending on a patient’s needs. The perils of a lack of security here are obvious and demonstrate in the clearest possible terms the need to match the pace of innovation with the pace of security.

As IoT prepares to enter its third decade, security is set to define its ongoing success. Securing “all the things,” plus data integrity and privacy, has never been more important.

Solutions

While technology advances at a dizzying pace, ensuring that security is woven into the fabric of every device—from inception to the factory floor to the front room—is imperative. As business models evolve, so must our very definition of security. With increased and more personal risks, we must find solutions before it’s too late.

As participants in the global economy, this presents opportunities to collectively make choices on the types of capabilities we invest in. 

As an industry, we need to work together to help governments, health institutions, banks and manufacturers around the world to navigate our hyperconnected future and all of its inherent threats. That means securing autonomous cars, drones, safety and incident response systems, ECG machines, surgical robots, black boxes and everything in between to keep data and people safe, private and secure.

The most trusted, precise way to do this is with a unified endpoint management platform from the likes of BlackBerry or from another enterprise technology vendor that provides flexible end-to-end security. As the fleet of IoT devices and apps continues to grow and diversify, complete endpoint management and policy control are essential to secure IoT and keep users safe.

Cyber-resilience is fundamental to ensuring we achieve the potential that hyperconnectivity offers: bettering our lives rather than stealing the future from us. It’s firmly on us to not squander this potential.

Michelle Price, CEO of Australian Cyber Growth Network