How Telecom Benefits from IoT: Life and Death Security Implications

Jason Marcheck
Jason Marcheck

Summary Bullets:

  • Network security is moving from something that has traditionally been seen as being “baked in” to an overt aspect of vendor solution marketing as all IP-based telecom and IoT networks proliferate.
  • As IoT security steps increasingly into the light, telecom network operators and vendors have a chance to win business in a number of vertical markets that have been previously out of their “sweet spot.”

The other day, I was invited to hear Ethernet co-inventor Bob Metcalfe participate in a live stream interview at RCR Wireless’ studios in Austin, TX. During the talk, professor Metcalfe touched on a range of topics including the history of Ethernet development, entrepreneurship and IoT networking requirements. While all good stuff, the part of the interview I found most interesting dealt with IoT security, particularly as it pertains to securing the networks needed to enable driverless cars on a mass-market scale. (For those interested, the gist of the automotive security discussion begins at about 25:30 of the video).


As Metcalfe explains during his talk, IoT – specifically as it pertains to the automotive vertical – is going to require the presence of a multitude of networks (i.e., vehicle-to-vehicle, vehicle-to-road, etc.). Of course, as more networks become involved, the number of opportunities for security breaches increases. Now, if people are ever going to trust a vehicle to pilot them down the road, security has to be a given. That it is far from a given was laid bare (in a demonstration that was part publicity stunt, part chilling realization) when Wired magazine released a story of how a Jeep’s electrical system was hacked while being driven. In an unrelated (but certainly timely) event, Giesecke & Devrient and IBM teamed up to unveil an automotive security solution designed to protect a vehicle’s electrical system from being hacked and taken over.

Here at Current Analysis, we cover the infrastructure market as it pertains both to solutions aimed at the enterprise and to the wide-area telecom network. Increasingly, as networking sea changes such as SDN/NFV and IoT continue to evolve, we are finding that announcements – such as the G&S/IBM initiative referenced above – are blurring the lines between enterprise and telco markets. From where I sit as a telecom infrastructure analyst, I see events such as the Jeep hack incident and the G&S/IBM automotive security solution announcement as a potential boon to both network operators and equipment vendors alike. From the network point of view, service providers are in a great position to help large enterprises (or even entire industries) understand how these life-and-death security solutions can be developed to reliability standards where failure is not an option. Similarly, while solution vendors such as IBM work extensively in the telecom vertical, network and systems integrators with a strong telecom pedigree can also add tremendous value in helping to get extremely sensitive IoT networks deployed.

Why will telecom sensibilities be so valuable? For starters, telecom players know “the network.” They know how to manage multi-vendor solutions and/or how to satisfy multiple stakeholders. What’s more, they also know the up and downstream implications of injecting security at various points in the network (i.e., where the performance vs. reliability tradeoffs matter most).

Going forward, I suspect we will be hearing a lot more about security solutions aimed a IoT networks in general (i.e., not just automotive). I also suspect many of these solutions will be brought to market as ways for large enterprises that are not necessarily part of the telecommunications industry to secure and protect their offerings. However, as this happens, I’ll also be looking for ways in which companies that are squarely in the telecommunications industry can lend guidance and support to those who are developing and deploying IoT security solutions – and win business as a result of it.

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