Ensuring a secure Internet of Things

Senior Vice President, Global Public Policy, AT&T


The rapid rise of a new generation of connected, intelligent devices—collectively known as the Internet of Things, or IoT—is more than just the latest digital enabler to impact organisations of all sizes. The IoT presents vast opportunities for governments and businesses to improve internal efficiencies, serve their customers or constituents better, and enter new markets or provide new services. Such services will transform the way we work and live every day. As the IoT develops, it is essential that security-by-design be a core feature of the connected device ecosystem.

You can see promising innovation in the automotive, shipping, industrial, healthcare, home security and smart city sectors, just to name a few. Take, for example, a wristband fitness tracker or health monitor. Such an item can be a purely personal device for tracking one’s daily exercise; or it can be used for medical purposes to determine a diabetic’s insulin demand. In either case, appropriate security practices are vital. And each member of the ecosystem as well as government has a role to play in ensuring effective security protections that take a holistic view of the threat management environment. Effective threat management involves many interrelated efforts.

First, the device itself must be secure–especially if the device is used to track sensitive medical information like insulin demand, rather than just the number of steps taken in a day. To ensure device security, it is essential that security issues be considered from the very beginning of device design, and should not be an afterthought or bolt-on solution. Furthermore, this design must permit security to be ensured over its complete lifecycle. Although device security is often achieved using hardware based solutions, it may also be implemented through commercial arrangements that involve co-operation with network operators or applications providers.

Second, the device’s operating and applications software must be secure against unauthorised attempts to reprogramme or disable it. Possible solutions include the use of encryption or code signing. And because one may never know all future security threats, it is vital that device and applications providers be able to securely update the software on the device to patch vulnerabilities and security gaps as they evolve. Otherwise, older devices could become unacceptably insecure. Further, since IoT devices are commonly deployed in remote locations, update capabilities such as Firmware-Over-The-Air will be crucial. User data stored on-device needs to be secured, too–perhaps via on-device data encryption so even if the device is breached, the data stored on it remains secure.

Security in networks over which IoT devices communicate is also vital. It does not matter whether these networks are wired, or wireless wi-fi or mobile cellular, customers will demand that they be secure to ensure that data passes reliably between the device and its applications provider. One way this may be achieved is through a secure transmission service such as AT&T NetBond® to link devices to their cloud-based applications servers without exposing their traffic to congestion or online threats like DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attacks that exist on the public Internet.

Finally, the computer server managing the device’s application must not be a weak link in protecting the integrity of the service. Regardless of whether this server is the application provider’s own machine or one located “in the cloud,” it must be secured using robust intrusion detection and prevention systems, and firewalls to prevent unauthorised access.

With security being one of the biggest priorities for IoT deployment, effective government partnership with the private sector will be key. This may take several forms. One is that government agencies may convene industry groups to develop cross-sectoral (e.g., device, network, applications) practices and expectations for IoT security. Furthermore, government may assist by providing clear interpretations and advance guidance as to what its general security laws and regulations require for IoT systems and ensuring these requirements are consistent across all units of government and ecosystem participants.

Finally, governments will themselves be deploying IoT solutions for initiatives such as smart cities, smart transportation or effective health care. Given the pervasiveness of these applications, governments will need to collaborate closely with IoT providers to understand security risks associated with their applications and create a framework for shared knowledge. Working together, government and industry can accelerate innovation in IoT and in IoT security.

The IoT is growing exponentially and the need to secure its ecosystem end-to-end is an absolute necessity. This requires a bottom-up holistic approach to security design and implementation in which each ecosystem participant does its part. Continuing close partnership between the public and private sectors is also important to ensure that IoT security innovation continues and solutions are shared across industry and IoT system users. By following this path, the most valuable years of the Internet will always lie ahead of us.

Visit www.ATT.com

©OECD Observer No 307 Q3 2016

Economic data

GDP growth: +0.6% Q1 2019 year-on-year
Consumer price inflation: 2.3% May 2019 annual
Trade: +0.4% exp, -1.2% imp, Q1 2019
Unemployment: 5.2% July 2019
Last update: 8 July 2019

OECD Observer Newsletter

Stay up-to-date with the latest news from the OECD by signing up for our e-newsletter :

Twitter feed

Subscribe now

<b>Subscribe now!</b>

To order your own paper editions,email Observer@OECD.org

Online edition
Previous editions

Don't miss

  • MCM logo
  • The following communiqué and Chair’s statement were issued at the close of the OECD Council Meeting at Ministerial level, this year presided by the Slovak Republic.
  • Food production will suffer some of the most immediate and brutal effects of climate change, with some regions of the world suffering far more than others. Only through unhindered global trade can we ensure that high-quality, nutritious food reaches those who need it most, Angel Gurría, Secretary-General of the OECD, and José Graziano da Silva, Director-General of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, write in their latest Project Syndicate article. Read the article here.
  • Globalisation will continue and get stronger, and how to harness it is the great challenge, says OECD Secretary-General Gurría on Bloomberg TV. Watch the interview here.
  • OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría with UN Secretary-General António Guterres at the 73rd Session of the UN General Assembly, in New York City.
  • The new OECD Observer Crossword, with Myles Mellor. Try it online!
  • Listen to the "Robots are coming for our jobs" episode of The Guardian's "Chips with Everything podcast", in which The Guardian’s economics editor, Larry Elliott, and Jeremy Wyatt, a professor of robotics and artificial intelligence at the University of Birmingham, and Jordan Erica Webber, freelance journalist, discuss the findings of the new OECD report "Automation, skills use and training". Listen here.
  • Do we really know the difference between right and wrong? Alison Taylor of BSR and Susan Hawley of Corruption Watch tell us why it matters to play by the rules. Watch the recording of our Facebook live interview here.
  • Has public decision-making been hijacked by a privileged few? Watch the recording of our Facebook live interview with Stav Shaffir, MK (Zionist Union) Chair of the Knesset Committee on Transparency here.
  • Can a nudge help us make more ethical decisions? Watch the recording of our Facebook live interview with Saugatto Datta, managing director at ideas42 here.
  • The fight against tax evasion is gaining further momentum as Barbados, Côte d’Ivoire, Jamaica, Malaysia, Panama and Tunisia signed the BEPS Multilateral Convention on 24 January, bringing the total number of signatories to 78. The Convention strengthens existing tax treaties and reduces opportunities for tax avoidance by multinational enterprises.
  • Globalisation’s many benefits have been unequally shared, and public policy has struggled to keep up with a rapidly-shifting world. The OECD is working alongside governments and international organisations to help improve and harness the gains while tackling the root causes of inequality, and ensuring a level playing field globally. Please watch.
  • Checking out the job situation with the OECD scoreboard of labour market performances: do you want to know how your country compares with neighbours and competitors on income levels or employment?
  • Trade is an important point of focus in today’s international economy. This video presents facts and statistics from OECD’s most recent publications on this topic.
  • The OECD Gender Initiative examines existing barriers to gender equality in education, employment, and entrepreneurship. The gender portal monitors the progress made by governments to promote gender equality in both OECD and non-OECD countries and provides good practices based on analytical tools and reliable data.
  • Interested in a career in Paris at the OECD? The OECD is a major international organisation, with a mission to build better policies for better lives. With our hub based in one of the world's global cities and offices across continents, find out more at www.oecd.org/careers .
  • Visit the OECD Gender Data Portal. Selected indicators shedding light on gender inequalities in education, employment and entrepreneurship.

Most Popular Articles

OECD Insights Blog

NOTE: All signed articles in the OECD Observer express the opinions of the authors
and do not necessarily represent the official views of OECD member countries.

All rights reserved. OECD 2019