IoT will become a matter of life or death for security pros

The need to move beyond just protecting computer systems is the biggest challenge ever faced by IT, Gartner says

Internet of things means different things to different people; self-driving cars, smart cities, connected homes, health and fitness apps, etc. But for security professionals, IoT will become a safety issue.

christian byrnes

Christian Byrnes

That's the stark assessment of analyst Christian Byrnes, who delivered Gartner's scenario for cyber security looking out toward the year 2020.

Gartner is all-in on IoT, predicting that we're moving inexorably toward "the universal connectivity of everything,'' according to Byrnes. The impact cannot be overestimated.

It's one thing if a security breach results in downtime, or lost data, or the theft of credit card numbers or other personal information. But what happens when security professional are charged with protecting the availability of real-time event driven systems?

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The doomsday scenarios are endless. Imagine hospital drug delivery systems, urban traffic lights, municipal water systems, etc., being hacked. "In many industries, human life is going to be at risk," says Byrnes.

"If your company starts killing people because of bad security, you're not going to look good," he adds. "This is inherently different from anything we've had to protect in the past."

Gartner's Christian Byrnes

He noted that the FDA recently recalled a type of insulin pump because it was a networked device and was deemed hackable.

As buildings and other systems in the physical world become instrumented with sensors, physical security will be merged with cyber security under the purview of the IT department. That puts another level of responsibility onto the shoulders of security professionals.

Byrnes says that as security practitioners look to the future, they need to move beyond just protecting computer systems. "The strategy is detect, isolate and respond," Byrnes says.

He added that this shift is the biggest challenge ever faced by IT; it makes the move from mainframe to client server or the transition to mobile seem like child's play. Byrnes recommends that security pros start preparing now for the coming world where everything is connected and everything becomes a potential vulnerability.

Weinberg is executive features editor at Network World. He can be reached at

This story, "IoT will become a matter of life or death for security pros" was originally published by Network World.

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