Smarter networks will fight ‘internet of threats’ risk

Broadband internet. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)
Broadband internet. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)

Cape Town - Connecting objects such as cars to the internet can become a risky business if security threats aren't properly handled, says a networking expert.

Growth in this type of connectivity is expected to surge as the ‘internet of everything’ (IoE) market is forecast to generate R152.58bn in value for South Africa's public sector over the next decade, according to a Cisco study released earlier this year.

Cisco, in that study, described the IoE market as including the “internet of things” as well as “networked connection of people, process, data and things, and the increased value that occurs as ‘everything’ joins the network”.

Safeguarding the internet of things space then is a key challenge that needs to be met, said a Cisco executive speaking at AfricaCom 2015 in Cape Town on Tuesday in a keynote address.

“When you move to this hyper-connected environment of connected objects, processes and people, there are a number of challenges including skills set, including economics,” said Paolo Campoli, head of global service provider sales for Middle East and Africa of Cisco.

“But probably the number one challenge that we see is not to move to an internet of threats rather than an internet of things,” he said.

“Everything that is IP addressable, in principle, could be attacked,” he added.

Hacking risks of the internet of things has increased owing to greater smartphone adoption, according to 'The Symantec Internet Security Threat Report Vol 20'.

In 2014, Symantec said that 52% of health apps – especially those that connect to wearable devices – did not have a privacy policy in place.

Meanwhile, 20% of these apps sent personal information, logins and passwords in clear text, according to Symantec.

To mitigate similar risks, Cisco’s Campoli said that networking needs to shift from being just hardware-focused to software-enabled to make it more responsive to possible threats.

Cisco has also recently acquired a company Lancope to be in that space, said Campoli. Lancope specialises in flow analysis for security and network performance monitoring.

Campoli said that networks need to become smarter so that they are a “distributed platform that understands what's going on, correlates symptoms and tries to prevent security attacks”.

"This will be a horizontal ingredient that will be fundamental as we move through internet of everything and fully virtualised software networking,” said Campoli.

*Fin24 has been sponsored by Cisco to attend AfricaCom 2015.

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