IoT at MWC: We Need Secure Network Infrastructure – Not Shiny Rings – To Keep Us Safe

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Wearables, sensors, batteries, cool apps, great wristbands – sure, those are necessary for IoT success, but the real trick is to provision reliable, secure and private communications that Black Riders and hordes of nasty Orcs can’t intercept

By Alan Zeichick, IDG Contributor Network, Published on Network World, February 26, 2016.


Barcelona, Mobile World Congress 2016—IoT success isn’t about device features, like long-life batteries, factory-floor sensors and snazzy designer wristbands. The real power, the real value, of the IoT is in the data being transmitted from devices to remote servers, and from those remote servers back to the devices.

“Is it secret? Is it safe?” Gandalf asks Frodo in the “Lord of the Rings” movies about the seductive One Ring to Rule Them All. He knows that the One Ring is the ultimate IoT wearable: Sure, the wearer is uniquely invisible, but he’s also vulnerable because the ring’s communications can be tracked and hijacked by the malicious Nazgûl and their nation/state sponsor of terrorism.

Are IoT communications links secret? Are they safe? Are they reliable, consistent, and easy to manage by the device’s service provider? (I haven’t seen the specs for the wireless provisioned by Mordor, but we could call it 3rd-Age-G.)

At Mobile World Congress 2016 this past week, the unquestioned buzz was mostly about the forthcoming 5G wireless trials, but the IoT was a close second. Sure, many of the most attention-getting IoT (and 5G) discussions were about specific devices, such as smartphones, wearables, connected cars and industrial systems.

Fortunately, everyone seemed to realize that without safe, secure, persistent, affordable and management communications, the IoT is a #FAIL. And that means not only the last mile (say, 5G) over-the-air link, but all the mobile backhaul, intracarrier and intercarrier links. It also means the fixed server end of the data flow, that is, between telcos and cloud service providers, enterprise data centers, and collocation facilities. After all, a tunnel is vulnerable on both ends, as well as in the middle.

Here are some of the announcements at Mobile World Congress that struck me as being especially relevant to the connectivity, privacy and security issues of the Internet of Things, even if none of them require devices to be forged in the molten lava of Mount Doom.”

“Treebeard keeps you safe, and is strong enough to take down black-hat wizards. However, while you can’t subscribe to Ents-as-a-Service, carriers can sign up to resell a set of new Security-as-a-Service packages from Wedge Networks. According to the company, its new IoT Security and Compliance Enforcement packages provide IoT optimized security and compliance services with enforcement at the cloud layer to consistently apply policies to all network connected devices, both physical and virtual. There’s also a healthcare package designed for Health Information Privacy and Accountability Act (HIPAA) compliance obligations to medical device manufacturing which is far less regulated but increasingly dependent on IoT stuff.”

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