As DoD Eyes Internet of Things for New Uses Cases, Security Concerns Remain

The “Internet of Things” isn’t exactly a new concept, Kevin Ashton coined the term the Internet of Things as far back as 1999. Now, 15 years later, the Department of Defense (DoD) is eager to exploit it.

What is the Internet of Things?

Simply put, the “Internet of Things” or IoT, for short, refers to the next evolution of the internet when everyday objects are networked to the web and each other. Smart watches, connected cars, appliances, houses, and more – very soon every physical thing will be accessible through the internet.

The use cases for IoT are infinite and varied. The GSA, for example, is working with IBM to monitor the energy use of its facilities. Similar sensor devices can be used to monitor jet engines, or any other structure you can think of!

DoD leaders recently gathered at the Technology Training Corporation’s IoT symposium - a 2 day symposium on sensor technologies and their use by government. Several use cases are already underway, as noted by GovWin’s, Alex Rossino. For example, the U.S. Southern Command uses IoT technology in its GeoShare program for humanitarian assistance. GovWin also noted other use cases that the defense establishment is investigating, including:

  • Base Facilities Maintenance – trash pickup, light replacement, food replenishment
  • Vehicle management – maintenance prediction, location tracking
  • Secured, smart workplace – presence for workers integrated with facilities management
  • Logistics and transportation – inventory/tracking, automated assembly/packing, geo-location in supply chain
  • Robotics – autonomous drones and vehicles, sensor based maneuvering

Security Concerns Remain

These smart “things” don’t come without risk. As we noted late last year in The Internet of Hackable Things, as the rate of connected devices rises exponentially, the number of hackable things does too.

Consider these scenarios:

A man walks into a government agency and unknowingly sends network passwords to hackers with his “smart” shoes.

Mr. Jones didn’t know that his Pentagon audience also included criminals in another state, who recorded everything he said with his ”smart” watch.

According to the Federal Times, White House cyber Czar, Michael Daniel, sees the threat as inevitable.

If we thought that doing cybersecurity in a world of wired desktops was hard, now we’re going to do it in a world where your coffee maker, your car and your refrigerator are also a threat vector,” he said. “That makes the problem just that much more difficultWe want to improve our ability to actually deter those upfront, respond to them when they happen and mitigate any of the effects when they do occur,” Daniel said.

If agencies are not already focusing on educating their employees about the dangers of cybersecurity, they need to. And if they have not considered mobile device management and endpoint security, they need to.

By Wilgengebroed on Flickr [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons