Predictions 2018: Will the IoT Become a 'Disruption of Things'?

A new threat may emerge in 2018: The disruption of things. As the IoT offers access to both disruptive possibilities and massive amounts of critical data, we will see attacks in this area, and may also see the integration of a new man-in-the-middle (MITM) attack.

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2018 is going to be about a lot of things in the IT realm, but none will be greater or more important to the world at large than the internet of things.

Yes, you probably heard that same claim a year ago—maybe even two years ago. But now we’re seeing many more companies being started up that are dedicated to this massive greenfield opportunity. This means many more new devices, opportunities for side suppliers and jobs in general globally.

We're not kidding about the size of the greenfield. Experts estimate that the IoT will consist of about 30 billion objects by 2020. It is also estimated that the global market value of IoT will reach $7.1 trillion by 2020.

For the record: The internet of things (IoT) is the network of physical devices, vehicles, home appliances, and other items embedded with electronics, software, sensors, actuators, and network connectivity which enable these objects to connect and exchange data. Each thing is uniquely identifiable through its embedded computing system but is able to inter-operate within the existing Internet infrastructure.

Security is Always the Biggest Issue

The IoT allows objects to be sensed or controlled remotely across existing network infrastructure, creating opportunities for more direct integration of the physical world into computer-based systems, and resulting in improved efficiency, accuracy and economic benefit in addition to reduced human intervention. When IoT is augmented with sensors and actuators, the technology becomes an instance of the more general class of cyber-physical systems, which also encompasses technologies such as smart grids, virtual power plants, smart homes, intelligent transportation and smart cities.

Security is by far the largest pain point in the IoT. Of course, security is also the largest pain point in all of IT, so there’s little differentiating the two sectors.

eWEEK covers innovation and trends about the IoT on a regular basis. We talk to people in this business all the time, and they have a lot to say. Here are some predictions from industry experts on the state of the IoT in 2018.

Paul Martini, CEO and Co-Founder, iboss: Better IoT network security will come to the fore.
“The industry will continue to be plagued by IoT botnets and malware. 2018 will be the year that enterprises and service providers finally realize that waiting for device manufacturers to improve hardware security is a losing proposition and take it upon themselves to secure their networks against compromised devices. An increasing number of enterprises will deploy network security solutions that are designed specifically to protect large numbers of connected devices.”

Jacob Loveless, founder of Edgemesh: The internet will break (again) with the proliferation of connected devices and reliance on third-party services.
The internet is increasingly becoming more fragile (due to its growth and complexity) and more centralized (due to larger and larger major service providers). In 2017, Google and Level-3 caused outages for millions of users.  BGP (the Border Gateway Protocol) is a 29 year-old protocol that serves as the backbone of internet. The increase in connected devices (mobile, IoT) and globalization of content consumption is beginning to show the cracks in the original design. In addition, as customers increasingly rely on third party services (SaaS/IaaS) which themselves rely on third party services (SaaS/ IaaS), there will be more and more large scale outages when key points of centralization fail (e.g. AWS).” 

Jason Andersen, Stratus Technologies strategic lead on industrial IoT and artificial intelligence:

  • What was the biggest surprise in 2017 for IoT?
    Andersen: “To me, the biggest surprise was just how long it’s continued to take everyone to realize the role and importance of edge computing in their industrial IoT deployments. Look at any of the biggest cloud enterprises – even they take a balanced approach to what they deploy in the cloud, in the datacenter and at the edge. Operations with less connectivity shouldn’t be any different and the sweet spot for them as they’re adopting IIoT will be finding new ways to deliver the capabilities of the cloud in their on-premise edge computing devices.”
  • What is on the horizon in 2018 for IoT:
    Andersen: “Technology companies spent the past year driving greater awareness and buy-in around edge computing, meaning in 2018 we’ll see fewer barriers to adoption and a greater willingness to begin planning out edge computing investments. That said, we’re still in the early stages of edge computing adoption and should still expect to face a number of obstacles. 2018 will be a trial-and-error phase of edge computing adoption because of the lack of best practices in place for edge deployments that would allow for smooth implementation.”

Richard Ford, Chief Scientist at Forcepoint: IoT is not held for ransom but instead becomes a target for mass disruption.
A disruption of things is going to happen. The wide-scale adoption of IoT devices in consumer and business environments, coupled with these devices often being both easy to access and unmonitored, has made them an attractive target for cybercriminals wishing to hold them ransom or obtain a long-term, persistent presence on the network. While ransomware of these connected things is possible, it remains unlikely in 2018. However, a new threat that will emerge in 2018 is the disruption of things. As the IoT offers access to both disruptive possibilities and massive amounts of critical data, we will see attacks in this area, and may also see the integration of a man-in-the-middle (MITM) attack.”

Sam Elliott, director of security product management at Bomgar: Security complications of the IoT are substantial.
“The IoT is going to continue to be an issue as threats grow in size and scope. Even as people become more aware of security risks, and developers try to work harder to secure connections, in many cases security isn’t a consideration at all, or it’s only added at the end. When a botnet occurs, such as the Reaper botnet, we have no idea how big it is, or the motivations, or what is already affected. Things like smart toys and the next cool, connected thing are making this scenario more complicated.”

AT&T:  Practice of dumping data will go out the window.
“Due to the proliferation of data (driven by IoT and digital transformation), the old model of “dumping data” is gone. We are at tipping point where costs to keep data in house are only increasing. Many companies are looking at how they can monetize their data and are looking to the cloud – in many cases a multi-cloud approach – to stay competitive and meet their evolving business needs.”

Sundara Raman, Senior Telecom Engineer, Teradata: Telecom providers will offer end-to-end service through IoT.
Due to the nature of the business, telecom providers have  greater flexibility and agility in creating service products at different price points that will appeal to the target market segment. For this reason, telecom service providers are best placed to take advantage of IoT starting in 2018 by offering end to end service (i.e. communication, sensor data collection / management in the cloud, Big Data analytics) to vertical industries such as health, mining, automotive and electricity distribution.”

LogRhythm Labs: IoT devices will become a more frequent target for ransomware attacks and cyber extortion.
“Ransomware will continue to be a popular hacking method. Hackers will expand into new vectors and targets, impacting the everyday use of IoT.” 

Toby Olshanetsky, cofounder and CEO of prooV: Don’t count retail out of IoT.
We all know the current grim state of brick and mortar retail. However, savvy retailers are investing in technologies including video cameras, IoT sensors and PoS systems, as well as predictive analytics to increase sales and overall revenue from existing foot traffic.”

Bruce deGrazia, program chair and collegiate professor of Cybersecurity at University of Maryland University College: A proliferation of IoT devices and systems will drive larger focus on security.
“More and more devices will be connected in 2018, but security will be overlooked. We all know about IoT appliances such as refrigerators and washing machines, but unsecured children's toys and other smaller devices will be the next frontier.”

Dr. Walter Bohmayr, Global Leader of the Boston Consulting Group’s (BCG’s) Cybersecurity Practice, and Dr. Stefan A. Deutscher, Global Topic Leader of the BCG Cybersecurity Practice: More attacks on the way.
“We predict an increase in attacks as IoT devices are taking off and the digitization of value creation is growing across most industries. People will also turn to advanced technology (such as artificial intelligence and machine learning) on both the defending and perpetrating side of cybersecurity, effectively igniting a cybersecurity arms race.”

Colin Beaney, Global Industry Director for Energy & Utilities at IFS:  The energy industry gets smarter as AI and IoT move ahead.
“As consumer demand dictates energy supply and billing, IoT, machine learning and AI capabilities will add another dimension to this, not just in the field at the edge of operations, but at the heart of products and in homes, too. For energy providers, 2018 will be about finding the sweet spot, connecting consumers’ demands for increased flexibility and cost control to new services and charging models based on renewable energy sources and emerging technologies—those who succeed with this will be the winners.”

vXchnge :  Reliability and security will be paramount.
“IoT devices must be secured and will impact the data center, but the main issue is how secure and reliable are the data center platforms.  Data centers will get smarter about securing IoT devices at the platform level and will place more emphasis on network interconnectivity as it relates to better latency.”

Be sure to save the time/date for our next #eWEEKchat on Wednesday, Dec. 13, at 11am Pacific/2pm Eastern. The topic is one of our favorites: “Predictions and Wild Guesses for IT in 2018.” Bookmark #eWEEKchat for starters; check here for further details.

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor of Features & Analysis at eWEEK, responsible in large part for the publication's coverage areas. In his 12 years and more than 3,900 stories at eWEEK, he...