Once upon a time a mobile phone was something we used for talking. Today making a call ranks sixth on the list of most common uses for a mobile phone. Now there’s a new kid on the block that, in time, will push making a call even lower down the list. Mobile payment, or m-payment, is taking off. Early adopters like Starbucks already attribute significant revenue gains to their investment in mobile. Although overall mobile payments adoption and usage rates are still a fraction of standard credit/debit card transactions industry watchers expect this to change very quickly.
For many years industries like oil and gas, electricity, agriculture and utilities have relied on operational communications infrastructure outside the main corporate network to collect data and provide supervisory control. Known as Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems the data they collect leads to efficient allocation of resources, monitors safety conditions and improves operational decision-making. But now, with the emergence of Internet of Things (IoT) technology, industrial organizations are eager to deploy new wireless machine-to-machine (M2M) devices to collect even more data from field assets in remote, geographically dispersed locations. The number of sensors and data points in industrial networks looks set to multiply exponentially overnight. As a consequence, there will be more access points than ever before. Security, therefore, will be an important factor in determining the overall success of IoT deployment.
Ever since Edward Snowden revealed the extent of state-sponsored espionage over the Internet in 2013 businesses have been acutely aware of just how vulnerable data communications are to being intercepted. It is no coincidence that in the same period cybercriminals have also stepped up their attempts to spy on organisations. For example, the use of Advanced Persistent Threat (APT) malware and ransomware to try to capture valuable financial or customer data for financial gain has risen dramatically. While no defense method is ever 100% impregnable the risk of snooping and theft of sensitive data can be significantly reduced by encrypting it using VPNs.
According to the leading analyst firm Gartner Group over 50% of major new business processes and systems will incorporate some element of the Internet of Things (IoT) by the year 2020. The potential for IoT to revolutionize existing business models is very exciting. Industrial manufacturers are clearly in a hurry to capitalize on this virtual world of opportunities where new revenue streams flow from managing and servicing customers’ equipment remotely.
But before everyone gets carried away it is important to pause for a moment to consider how with the rush towards digitalization there is also a risk that IoT growth will outstrip cybersecurity considerations.
Happy 2016! It’s a new year, and a time for fresh resolutions to improve your life over the next 12 months, whether that involves running a marathon, getting a new job or taking that trip abroad you’ve been putting off.
But for businesses, those New Year’s resolutions should be expressly focused on stronger security. With data breaches, email hacks and password thefts becoming more and more commonplace – and each cyberattack casting wider nets of victims – this is one resolution that can’t be allowed to fall through.