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Security and the Rise of Machine-to-Machine (M2M) Communications

Aug. 26, 2014
Kerry Doyle


Increased interconnectivity via machine-to-machine (M2M) communications, the IoE, and smart systems holds profound implications for how business trends continue to evolve. In terms of M2M growth, key developments in security will be essential, from the design and manufacture of devices to more robust cloud security and ensuring the integrity of wireless data transmissions. Without these safeguards in place, organizations and industries that rely on M2M will continue to place themselves at risk.



It's generally accepted that the machine-to-machine (M2M) communications sector is quickly moving from a period of market development towards commercial deployment. As a result, the need exists to offer secure connectivity and to assure customers on this point. That's because security issues are increasingly coming to the forefront as M2M solutions grow in complexity and are deployed throughout business-critical areas.

In fact, the possibility exists that the number of M2M connections in data centers across most industries has far outstripped the ability of those organizations to secure them. Such a misalignment between security and compliance can expose companies to undue risk because they face security threats that could severely compromise operations.

The automated, machine-connected world represents the next step in business technology's evolution. But despite the gains that M2M seems capable of achieving, are early adopters giving security the amount of attention it requires?

In this white paper, we explore the unforeseen risks prompted by M2M expansion and the Internet of Everything (IoE). We also assess possible barriers to secure functioning of M2M across a variety of sectors. Finally, we examine the problems posed by unchecked security threats as well as possible solutions that exist to mitigate those risks.

Internet of Everything (IoE) Security and M2M Connectivity

While there's been significant growth, we're still in the early stages of M2M productivity. The current M2M market consists largely of corporate/business deployments. However, the consumer segment is increasingly coming into focus as an area ripe for expansion.

Implementing M2M security is complicated because it's closely related to how processor-embedded hardware is designed and manufactured. The mass commodity manufacturing of sensor devices has little standardization and minimal regulatory requirements. This situation cuts across all industry verticals and geographies.

Cloud-based security is also at issue. That's because the IoE, which relies on wireless connectivity and, to some degree, cloud services, is an integral part of M2M functionality. At the moment, countless M2M-based transactions automate critical business and operational processes across a number of industries.

Data theft, network breaches, malicious mischief, and regulatory compliance are just some of the security issues that must be confronted. In the meantime, the integration of intelligent device (sensor) networking and M2M communication capabilities is creating what some have termed a "digital nervous system" that's ever-evolving and responsive.

In our hyperconnected, knowledge-intensive economy, digital technologies are improving production, distribution, and operations for all manner of physical goods, from high-tech equipment to basic machinery. The result is improved productivity/quality, increased workforce collaboration, and new levels of customer interaction and influence.

As we consider the security ramifications, it's important first to define and differentiate the two platforms. The Internet of Things (IoT) consists of the exchange of data between autonomous endpoints. Each uniquely identifiable device relies on IP connectivity and can transmit processing on a local or international scale. While not requiring human intervention, the IoT does provide management capabilities for monitoring and analysis.

The IoE, on the other hand, is more inclusive and entails a broader spectrum of devices. It also encompasses the networks that must support all the data that these sensor devices generate and transmit, requiring software and hardware to work in concert.
The IoE mines the intrinsic value derived from all these linkages and monetizes the increased connectivity and improved productivity. With so many more intelligent devices on the network edge, new security considerations and implementations need to be evaluated.
M2M and Business/Consumer Environments: Key Attributes

The growth and evolution of M2M and the IoE is increasingly based on applications and their ability to stitch together complex interactions and processes. In the past, M2M consisted primarily of low volume, low Average Revenue Per User (ARPU) sensor networks. Currently, increased mobile traffic, more devices and higher bandwidth applications are generating higher ARPU.

Another reason for growth is due to next-generation (4G) technology which provides exceptionally fast connection speeds. A range of M2M technology, such as automotive sensors, inter-device communication, navigation, and video (to name a few)-are all improved via the massive throughputs and low-latency periods provided by 4G LTE.

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