Amphion Forum at CES 2011 Highlights the Migration to a Cyber Society Enabled by Smart Devices and the Internet of Things—Risks and Opportunities Ahead

Adrian Turner
CEO, Mocana

Last week, we wrapped up our first Amphion Forum – a closed-door (no media allowed) event on the final weekday at CES 2011 where executives from Citrix, Google, IBM, Intel, Motorola, and Symantec as well as representatives from the Federal sector gathered to discuss the opportunities and threats posed by the emerging trillion-dollar “smart device” economy.

While I can't share the specifics of the conversations (confidentiality was one of the promises of the Forum – so come in person next year!), I can give you an idea of the themes that repeatedly emerged, and perspectives that will undoubtedly frame discussions within the smart device, technology and mainstream communities for many years to come.

In the run-up to CES, we took a look at the security of a bestselling Internet HDTV, and the results were picked up widely by The New York Times among other outlets. The subtext of both articles was clear: if a high-quality global brand of TV carries these security flaws, then how can we confidently trust thousands of other newly connected consumer electronics being unleashed at CES? And home entertainment products are just the beginning. Our event also covered the security threats posed by the proliferation of Internet connected smart devices in manufacturing, healthcare, the military and the power grid, among many other industries. In fact we discussed the full spectrum of smart devices from single purpose, headless devices right through to multipurpose devices with graphical, voice and touch interfaces.

At the Amphion Forum, there was widespread agreement on a few things:

We are quickly migrating toward cyber society and there is no time to waste.
We are migrating toward a cyber society where nearly everything will be connected to the network as part of an “Internet of Things” and it’s clear that there is a critical need for better controls and security for the range of smart devices that will impact our lives. As this trend accelerates and everyday household appliances and machines of every imaginable type connect to the Web, security threats – both to individuals and to society – will grow substantially. Experts at the forum agreed that the situation will get a lot worse before it gets better and action needs to be taken now. Many of these devices will be in the field for years and in the cases of some devices like smart meters, the intent is to have them in the field for more than 20 years.

Platform wars and a re-organizing value chain.
The Internet and now smart devices have put nearly every industry in a period of tumult. Software, hardware, silicon and cloud vendors are all vying for an influential place in the value chain. Traditional software vendors typically focused on securing end points will see their value increasingly delivered via the Web, in combination with trusted device side security frameworks. Hardware makers are looking to turn devices into a platform for the delivery of their services. But all of these directions and business models will require better security than what exists today. It will require a combination of hardware, software and services and a silicon-based root of trust.

The cloud is inevitable. Cloud-based services are so convenient and flexible that their continued growth is inevitable, but they still aren’t well secured. The cloud will be leveraged to deliver different types of security, in combination with device-side code. This includes things like data backup, sync and share; device certificate management, patch management, device management etc.

Context intelligence is key. Baby monitors picking up cab dispatches … “Caution: Zombie’s ahead” displayed on a highway road sign … Stuxnet taking down a centrifuge. There are many examples, from the harmless to the increasingly dangerous and catastrophic, that indicate the need for context intelligence that is able to determine the who, what, when, where and why of any digital communication. We need to be able to secure our infrastructure, but also make it possible to deliver the convenience and efficiencies that context intelligence makes possible. For example, endpoint policy enforcement based on the location of the device, or time of day, or reputation of the user.

There’s a need for leadership and coordination.
It’s a complex and massive task to put in place all of the controls and security necessary to ensure a safe and prosperous future, aided by smart devices and the Internet of Things. It will require coordination across the entire value chain.. The technology and best-practices that we’ve built up over the past 15 years of Internet PC connectivity doesn’t “map” very well to the typical smart device environment of consumer electronics and connected devices. Leadership, coordination and even public policies will be required. At Mocana, we look forward to being an integral part of this transition to the smart device economy, and hope that Amphion Forum will provide a medium for this industry to forge a more clear direction for the future. Solving this will not only create enormous economic value, but also help address some of the most pressing societal issues such as healthcare and energy management.