Goldilocks Security: Bad, Won’t Work, and Plausible [Survive IoT Part 3]

Previous posts discussed the security challenge presented by IoT devices, using IP Video Cameras as an example. Now let’s consider some security alternatives:

Solution 1: Ignore Security

This is the most common approach to IoT security today. And, to a significant degree, it works. In the same way that ignoring fire safety usually works – only a few businesses or homes burn down each year!

Like fire safety, the risks from ignoring IoT security grow over time. Like fire safety, the cost of the relatively rare events can be catastrophic. Unlike fire safety, an IoT event can affect millions of entities at the same time.

And, unlike traditional IT security issues, IoT security issues can result in physical damage and personal injury. Needless to say, I do not recommend ignoring the issue as a viable approach to IoT security!

Solution 2: Secure the Cameras

Yes, you should secure IP cameras. They are computers sitting on your network – and should be treated like computers on your network! Best practices for IT security are well known and readily available. You should install and configure them securely, update them regularly, and monitor them continuously.

If you have a commercial implementation of an IP video security system you should have regular updates and maintenance of your system. You should be demanding strong security – both physical security and IT security – of the video security system.

You did have IT involved in selection, implementation and operation of the video security system, didn’t you? You did make security a key part of the selection process, just as you would for any other IT system, didn’t you? You are doing regular security scans of the video security system and monitoring all network traffic, aren’t you? Good, you have nothing to worry about!

If you are like many companies, you are probably feeling a bit nervous right now…

For home and small business customers, a secure the camera approach simply won’t work.

  • Customer ease of use expectations largely prevent effective security.
  • Customer knowledge and expertise doesn’t support secure configuration or updates to the system.
  • The IoT vendor business model doesn’t support security: Low cost, short product life, a great feature set, ease of use, and access over the Internet all conspire against security.
  • There is a demonstrated lack of demand for security. People have shown, by their actions and purchasing decisions, the effective security is not a priority. At least until there is a security breach – and then they are looking for someone to blame. And often someone to sue…

Securing the cameras is a great recommendation but generally will not work in practice. Unfortunately. Still, it should be a requirement for any Industrial IoT deployment.

Solution 3: Isolation

If ignoring the problem doesn’t work and fixing the problem isn’t viable, what is left? Isolation. If the IP cameras can’t be safely placed on the Internet, then isolate them from the Internet.

Such isolation will both protect the cameras from the Internet and protect the Internet from the cameras.

The challenge is that networked cameras have to be on the network to work.

Even though the cameras are designed to be directly connected to the Internet, they don’t have to be directly connected to the Internet. The cameras can be placed on a separate isolated network.

In my next post, I will go into detail on how to achieve this isolation using an IoT Gateway between the cameras and all the other systems.

About Russell Doty

A technology strategist and product manager at Red Hat, working on the next generation of open source systems.
This entry was posted in IoT, Security. Bookmark the permalink.

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