With great connection comes great vulnerability, which is why security looms large in Verizon's Internet of Things platform.
Verizon has kept a keen eye on security while the company develops its Internet of Things (IoT) platform, which is called ThingSpace. From an investment of nearly a decade ago to exploration of new technologies, and the application of analytics, Verizon is building up tools to secure user connections.
According to recent research by Gartner, worldwide spending on Internet of Things security will increase from $348 million this year to $547 million in 2018. That forecast is in line with what Warren Westrup, director of connected solutions at Verizon, sees from the investment his own company is making in IoT security.
Security concerns are the chief "inhibitors of IoT," Westrup stresses. Westrup said that he had to present the "business case just like anyone else" to get Verizon's senior leaders to buy off on the investment in security. He believes that Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) has an advantage over other service providers in terms of expertise and knowledge of security thanks to its acquisition of Cybertrust in 2007. (See Verizon Grabs Cybertrust.)
Back then IoT was not even a thing, but Verizon recognized that enterprise transformations depended on secure connections across all public and private connections, across various devices and "everywhere in between," a Verizon exec said at the time.
Now we are getting a real appreciation for just how extensive the "everywhere in-between" is with the advent of IoT connections. Verizon's ThingSpace is a central IoT platform that eliminated the need to use multiple platforms. ThingSpace "brings it all to one platform so developers can use all of our services much more easily," Westrup said. (See Verizon's ThingSpace Opens Up APIs for IoT Developers.)
ThingSpace is also designed to be "a living platform with new services and capabilities added" as it evolves, Westrup explains, "and security is part of that."
“The more layers you put on security, the more protections you put in place, the better off you are," he said.
That's the idea behind Verizon's IoT Security Credentialing service. Verizon achieves an "over-the-top" (OTT) layer of security that works on IoT devices and apps because it is "connection agnostic," Westrup said. The protection is not restricted to cellular connections but works just as well for wired as it does for wireless lines.
“Security practice doesn't have to be linked to (the Verizon network)," Westrup said. "It's in the application layer, so it doesn't matter what the device is for the security credentials."
The platform assigns every device and application a "true identity." Westrup used the analogy of a passport, which can only be used by one person. In the same way, a device or application that lacks that authenticated identity would not be able to connect to the platform. On top of that, it is possible to add "a level of encryption, regardless of the network," according to Westrup.
Verizon is also looking at using blockchain technology, which is used by Bitcoin, to provide additional layers of security for data and data encryption for IoT. Verizon Ventures has been watching how startups adapt blockchain technology and even invested in one of them, Nevada-based Filament, last year. Westrup said there would need to be some modifications in blockchain technology in order for it to work in the IoT space. (See Verizon's Bartolomeo: IoT Security Top of Mind.)
Verizon's IoT security is getting a boost from big data analytics from Splunk Inc. Verizon has integrated Splunk software into its flagship Managed Security Services platform. Using analytics provides much more accurate identification of security threats, as well as improved visibility into all machine data threats, that would otherwise remain hidden. All of which is particularly important for IoT because it brings many different forms of devices that require monitoring into play.
While there's a range of tools available for customers to secure their data and devices, Westrup said that many of its users "don't think about security in advance." Verizon is working to insure that its IoT services and applications are secure, but customers also need "to see value in them" and take a proactive approach to security, he said.
— Ariella Brown, Technology Writer, Telco Transformation