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The Internet of Secure Things

By now you’ve heard the projections that the “Internet of Things” will have 20 billion “things” by the year 2020. Translating such a massive figure into reality can be daunting, but what does it really mean? Today the number of mobile devices alone already exceeds the world’s population, but it is estimated that in 2020 every person will have three connected devices. And those are the conservative estimates; others grow as high as 100 billion and assume that every household has 10 connected things. That can include smartphones, wearables, cars, household sensors and devices yet to be invented or imagined today.

In order to connect all of these things, the cloud becomes even more important. In 2013, the traffic in the mobile cloud amounted to 1.23 exabytes. By the end of this year, that traffic is expected to grow to 3.74 exabytes. In the five years tracking from 2013 to 2018, the traffic growth is expected to multiply 11.6 times to 14.31 exabytes. To put this in context, 5 exabytes is equal to all words ever spoken by human beings, making these figures truly difficult to imagine.

Now consider all this traffic and all these things talking to each other without a human watching for anomalies. That is where the potential for security issues gets scary. Within the service provider’s network, machines already look for anomalies that need to be addressed. At the device level, a user is likely to be paying attention to inbound requests to their devices that might raise red flags that something malicious could be happening. But how will devices communicating directly with other devices, without a human involved to react to potential malicious activities, know when the other devices aren’t what they’re expected to be? And lastly, who will the end user hold accountable when something bad happens?

As networks get more open and IP proliferates not only through networks in houses, service providers and cars, this openness can also create more opportunities for bad things to happen. As LTE becomes more widely deployed, the network efficiency improves and the network performance for the end user improves; but with this openness there is an increased opportunity for networks, applications and devices to be exposed to more threats. Many people joke about not caring if their connected toaster gets hacked, but what if the toaster has little to no security – since after all it’s just a toaster – and now someone can access the entire home network through that unprotected connection. That is when things get complicated.

With all of these threats on the horizon it can be confusing to understand what protection is available and who is responsible for its implementation. Security that can be addressed at the application level, inherent in the devices and within the service providers’ networks, are just a few options. Even the most technically advanced end user can face challenges when trying to determine the best way to protect devices that have never needed protection – thermostats, home appliances and cars. From these challenges an opportunity for the service provider emerges.

Although many new IoT service providers are entering the market, they only address a segment of the connected devices in an end user’s world. Service providers are in the best position to be able to supply connectivity, appropriate performance, security and management of the entire solution. They already have the customer relationships, billing systems and network technology in place. This is still not without challenges and certainly not an easy problem to solve. New players will have many hurdles to clear, not the least of which is the direct relationship with the end user.

F5 provides carrier-grade solutions that deliver multiple services on a unified platform to enable service providers to enhance quality of experience and generate new revenue streams. Learn more about F5 Networks’ tools to help service providers be ready for these challenges. www.f5.com

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