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The Internet of Things is 'dangerous' but won't ride to the rescue

Suck it up, folks, you'll have to take responsibility for yourselves out there

The Internet of Things is “dangerous”, according to some bloke trying to rebrand it as the “Internet of You” – and the government ain't going to pass new laws to sort it out.

According to a press release, one Jim Hunter of Greenwave Communications quite rightly warned the Broadband World Forum this morning that putting seemingly innocuous data (he used an analogy of individual pixels from a photo) together with identifying details and wider context is dangerous.

Unfortunately, he then went on to say: “The IoT – or the IoY (Internet of You) – is about defining what those individual pixels are, which can build the stories which make sense. It’s then finding the part of the picture which gives the insight and information needed to provide a tailored personal blah blah...” (continued pg.94)

Hunter, who we are told is co-chair of the Privacy Security Committee on the IoT Consortium, “a global group of companies helping to shape the public messaging about IoT” said that the term IoT itself is a “misnomer”, adding: “Anyone developing new ideas in this sector would do well to research what successes have already been achieved and build on them – ensuring right from the start that security and the handling of consumer data is given the highest priority.”

This is fairly standard advice for anyone thinking of getting into IoT or M2M, particularly regarding security. With industry commentators and larger companies alike calling for mandatory security standards for IoT, and more worries about data protection surfacing, this call is sensible, if nothing new.

The government, however, is not in the mood to legislate on mandatory IoT security standards, with the Minister for Digital Fun* Matt Hancock merely mumbling something in Parliament about “cyber security research institutes” and in particular the University London College-run PETRAS IoT research hub, whose website boasts about how it's going to boldly, er, “explore critical issues in privacy, ethics, trust, reliability, acceptability and security.”

Going by web appearances, the PETRAS hub appears to be little more than an academic talking shop long on polysyllabics and short on action.

Clearly, if industry doesn't get its act together and start imposing its own requirements on IoT suppliers, the UK's IoT offerings and networks are still going to be painfully insecure in years to come. ®


* Hancock is the minister for digital policy at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

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