As we prepare to close the book on 2015, no will argue that it's not been eventful, particularly for IT practitioners. For a number of years, experts have been talking about how 'smart' technology will impact the way we live with the promise of spectacular functionality in the technology we utilise.
With that in mind, experts at MWR InfoSecurity have offered the following insights to what 2016 may have in store for us.
The devices we use:
Statistics suggest that, by the end of 2016, 4.8 billion people will be using smartphones. This will have a significant impact on the global economy, with mobile transactions expected to power about $1 trillion in spending in the USA alone.
Nick Walker, Head of Mobile Security at MWR explains, "In 2016, UK mobile ad spending is set to exceed the spending of TV advertising, demonstrating a marked change in focus, and showing the heavy adoption of the smart phone in e-commerce. Accompanying this, the wearables market is drastically increasing in popularity with devices providing functionality, such as health monitoring and exercise tracking or even acting as a smart wallet – not just another way to read your SMS messages or a fashion accessory.
"With the drastic increase in functionality, and the continued growth of e-commerce and advertising in the mobile space, it is almost certain that user's mobile handsets will be a greater target for attackers. As such, businesses developing applications for these platforms will need to account for the increasing levels of risk with a thorough security policy and testing regime."
The Vehicles we Drive:
Robert Miller - Head of Smart Energy at MWR InfoSecurity, outlines, "Smart Cars may conjure images of Google's self-driving car, but there are a whole host of new technologies being added to our vehicles. From tracking of freight through to controlling our car's heating from our smart phone, many companies are looking to technology to add value and services to their current offerings as a way of standing out from their competition.
"One key area in smart vehicles is telemetrics - the data taken from vehicles about how they are operating sent remotely to third parties. Insurance companies are very keen to harness this data as it not only allows them to reward drivers who stick to the speed limits, but also gives them a 'black box' to potentially detect insurance fraud. Several European countries are leading the way on using this technology, so given their early success I predict we'll see this added to vehicles as standard very soon – perhaps even the next twelve months, or at the very least being offered as an optional component when purchasing a new motor."
The places we live:
Robert continues, "Smart Cities almost seems like a cliché from several years ago where we were promised that ability to monitor everything from pipe leaks to car park spaces in real time. The goal of course was that with this information could be managed more effectively and reduce costs to councils. A key factor that has slowed down this revolution has been the need to connect the many thousands of low powered components safely without spending thousands of pounds on cabling or installing huge mesh networks that can guarantee connectivity.
"In 2015 we have seen companies try to bridge the gap by offering new technologies that can provide this connectivity, such as SIGFOX. Far from waiting for organisations to buy in to this technology, SIGFOX are following a 'build it and they will come' mantra. This means that in many cities a wireless network is already available that companies can simply plug their devices into. With the entry cost dramatically reduced, I would expect to see more and more companies seize this opportunity to bring IoT and smart city products to market."
The dilemma smart brings:
Where there's money to be made there's nefarious individuals looking to capitalise and, unfortunately, smart technology has the potential to be a veritable gold mine.
Robert concludes, "The Increase in uptake of telemetrics and smart city solutions will increase the value of exploits against these systems. Whereas before, technologies were only being used to monitor our fridges or control street lights, the same technology is now being used to monitor and control a building's security and a city's infrastructure. Many organisations are applying IT security to these systems rather than Industrial security. The key difference is that with Industrial systems, availability is king. Cryptolocker for IoT is feasible but the thing stopping this from being realised is the current lack of value for such an attack. When Smart Cities and connected cars truly take off, attackers will be sure to follow."