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Why aren’t more IoT conferences focused on security and privacy?

Jessica Groopman

Although activity and innovation in the IoT space are growing rapidly, the reality is that the approach to one of the most critical elements of a connected world remains wildly fragmented and inconsistent: security.

Repeated studies find security is the greatest perceived risk of the Internet of Things. Following security—the elephant in the room when we talk about consumer-facing IoT— are concerns around privacy and safeguarding personal data. IBM found that the average cost of a data breach in 2014 was $3.8M, that’s $154 per record compromised. Yet, the central focus of most IoT conferences is development of connected products and platforms serving specific verticals, such as automotive, wearables, or healthcare.

Security is everyone’s problem

Maybe the most important reason there should be more conferences focused on security is because security is an issue that impacts everyone. Like data, design, or connectivity, security is a horizontal theme that cuts across all industries, verticals, business types, use cases, and customer types. Security isn’t just for the chief security, privacy, or information officer; it is an imperative in which management, employees, and end consumers all must be involved. The value inherent to any conference is pulling together multiple constituencies for collaborating, problem-solving, knowledge-sharing, networking, and exposure to new thinking. In a space synonymous with vulnerability, security can benefit from as many engaged perspectives in one room as possible.

Safeguarding takes many forms

Another critical reason there is a need for IoT conferences to focus more deeply on security is because, like the Internet of Things itself, ‘security’ has many manifestations. Consider that to secure any one element of the following is by no means a to secure the greater whole or system:

  • Data security
  • Device security
  • Infrastructure security
  • Ecosystem security  
  • Network security
  • Software security
  • Identity security
  • Employee safety
  • Consumer safety

As technology evolves, so too does this list. There is no silver bullet protection against cyber or IoT-related threats. As with the human body, we can never fully guarantee prevention from illness; the best we can do is make efforts to build immunity against threats. Security in the digital world, particularly as it pervades the physical world is the same. Collaboration in how to secure each of these elements properly and holistically, in ways that drive trust, adoption, and ethical innovation, is of central value to the industry in these early days.

A rising tide lifts all boats

Finally, the greatest value of dedicating time, space, and attention squarely to security in the IoT is that, when it comes to security solutions and safeguarding, a rising tide lifts all boats. The entire ‘immunity of the herd’ is strengthened when we are able to identify and trace vulnerabilities and develop more advanced security solutions and safeguards. Active discourse and collaboration around the following only helps strengthen the charge.

  • How businesses can better secure consumer and enterprise assets (see list above)
  • Emerging governance models for IoT security
  • How businesses can better communicate about consumer data and privacy in consumer IoT markets
  • Examining the need for security standards
  • The role of technology vs. the role of humans in security

What would you add? As an industry analyst and researcher, I am thrilled not only to attend Informa’s upcoming conference focused on Internet of Things Security, but honored to be included in an all-star line up of speakers. I’ll be speaking on a panel discussing security concerns for retailers using IoT, as well as hosting the analyst breakfast on Day 1. I look forward to connecting with and facilitating conversation between others closely following this fascinating space. In the meantime, don’t hesitate to get in touch.