The good, the bad and the IoT

By Park Hyung-ki

Security remains biggest risk of widespread connectivity

  • Published : May 7, 2014 - 20:32
  • Updated : May 7, 2014 - 20:32
Governments worldwide are placing big bets on the age of the widespread use of physical objects, infrastructure and systems connected to the Internet, or the Internet of Things.

The new era is expected to increase productivity and efficiency across all industrial sectors, but foreshadows a growing security risk stemming from the emerging technology.

The Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning announced in April that it would develop the IoT industry with the aim of generating 30 trillion won ($29.1 billion) in value by 2020, up from the current 2.3 trillion won.

The government will seek to boost its ecosystem by encouraging the development of both software and hardware, and remove unnecessary regulations for the growth of the IoT.

More than 50 small and medium enterprises in the IoT sector will be supported based on the government’s employment road map.

“Korea, which has played a leading role in information and technology since the 1990s with its advanced Internet infrastructure and semiconductor technology, will aim to take the leadership in the IoT,” said Kim Jeong-sam, head of the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning’s new Internet industry division.

In the U.S., industrial behemoths such as Intel, IBM, AT&T and Cisco have formed an alliance called the Industrial Internet Consortium.

They will cooperate to “establish interoperability across various industrial environments for a more connected world,” according to the consortium.

This was in line with the U.S. government’s plan to invest over $100 million a year in IoT research and development in the fields of healthcare, transportation and smart cities.

U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron said last year that his government would fund 45 million pounds ($7.6 million) for R&D in areas related to the IoT.

“I see the Internet of Things as a huge transformative development ― a way of boosting productivity, of keeping us healthier, making transport more efficient, reducing energy needs, tackling climate change,” said the prime minister in a speech, predicting the IoT would lead a “new industrial revolution.”

Security drawbacks

Despite promising outlooks and commitments from the public and private sectors, experts stressed that security threats persist amid the rise of the IoT.

This could result in more serious damage than seen in the personal computer era.

“People of all ages use smartphones nowadays, which play a huge role in the IoT, anytime and anywhere. Since those smartphones store a lot of personal information, the impact could be more severe than anything else once those devices are hacked,” said Kim Seung-joo, a professor of Korea University’s information assurance and security lab.

“Since many of those smartphone users are not familiar with how to handle security, they are exposed to hacking all year round,” he said. 
A smart lighting system is demonstrated at the 2014 International CES in Las Vegas in January. (Bloomberg)

For example, hackers can figure out when people go to bed and wake up, what kind of food they eat and what time they go to work by analyzing the things, such as home appliances, cars and lights, they use.

Connected automobiles can also be infiltrated by hackers, allowing them to control the engines, brakes and doors, as shown by researchers from the University of Washington and the University of California, San Diego in 2010.

Experts said manufacturers of connected devices and appliances should be required to provide stronger protection measures, and that they should be held accountable if personal data theft took place.

The Korean government will soon announce a security road map for the IoT.

“Security measures for information technology in the past were focused on responding to incidents, but the government will cooperate with private companies and experts to preemptively prevent hacking attempts,” Kim of the ICT Ministry said.

By Kim Young-won (