Lightning-fast download speeds, instant connections, and the affordability of connectivity are making modern communication increasingly reliant on IoT devices for various purposes across industries and homes.

During the pandemic, the global market for connected home machine-to-machine (M2M) was estimated at $7.6 billion in 2020. It is now projected to reach a revised size of $15.8 billion by 2026, growing at a CAGR of 12.8% over the analysis period. Machine-to-machine (M2M) technologies allow both wired and wireless systems to communicate with other devices of the same ability and can be used in a wide variety of applications for monitoring and control purposes. For instance, in the energy sector, Huawei provides smart solutions to achieve high-quality development and build low-carbon, safe, green, and efficient smart energy systems through the Internet of Things (IoT) applications. On the personal use front, experts predict that M2M technologies in combination with smartphones will become integral elements in smart homes. Meanwhile, wireless technology is projected to record a 14.7% CAGR and reach $12.7 billion by the end of 2026.

Further, the rollout of 5G is expected to accelerate the adoption of massive MTC (mMTC) and IoT space that have been somewhat limited because of latency and download speeds of the previous generation of networks. Adapting to these trends, communication service providers (CSPs) and enterprises must launch new services and generate revenue streams efficiently to survive in the global digital transformation journey. However, a serious question on security still exists as malicious actors can break in from one single IoT sensor to hack into a corporate network to launch ransomware attacks and whatnot. Moreover, practices such as data surveillance called sensory surveillance by vendors passively gather user behaviour data across all the human senses of sight, smell, hearing, taste, and touch through the multi-sensory triggers inserted in these smart devices. Some tech vendors are even going to the extent of selling this customer information for targeted and mostly unsolicited ad-marketing campaigns. Given the increasing extent of IoT applications, the need for proper, robust M2M security is vital for companies to keep their businesses up and running.

Here are some of the security strategies recommendations by experts for safeguarding the M2M environment:

User awareness and training:  In cybersecurity, humans are considered the weakest links. Hence hands-on integrated security skills and training are inevitable for all concerned employees for the safe operation of organizational systems. Any user of the applications on the network must be adequately educated about the security best practices to ensure the resiliency of critical infrastructure at all times.

Configuration and patch management: Configuration management (CM) of the information system components is conducted for proper alignment of compatibility, functionality, and performance to drastically minimize vulnerabilities and risks. It is aimed at supporting the product life cycle as well as safe operation and maintenance. Patch management on the other hand involves identifying, procuring, installing, and verifying software or firmware upgrades. An effective patch management program ensures all identified information system components are the latest version, as specified and supported by its vendor.

Minimizing attack surfaces:  Malicious players could find a vulnerable attack surface of an organization for hacking into business-critical assets. Using a firewall and preventing ports from staying open can make it difficult for break-ins as will isolating networks internally and externally. As networks grow, complexity grows resulting in the creation of exposed weak points. Curtailing and limiting such complexity is important. Using digital twins to simulate potential attack threats is also a great way to safeguard attack surfaces in advance.

Application whitelisting:  Application whitelisting aims at preventing malicious programs from running on a network by monitoring the operating system to prevent any illicit files from executing. Application whitelisting provides control over which programs are permitted to run on a user’s machine or a network by the administrators of an organization, rather than the end-user. Any program not specifically whitelisted is blocked.

Managing authentication: It is critical that all machines in a network be able to authenticate to establish their identity. CSPs can manage M2M and consumer device subscriptions for eSIM- and iSIM-enabled devices. Embedded SIM (eSIM) and integrated SIM (iSIM) are technologies used for authenticating users and devices on mobile networks. For instance, Nokia’s iSIM Secure Connect builds on that technology by managing device subscriptions linked to trusted digital ID for public and private e-services. In contrast to physical SIM cards, eSIM and iSIM can store and manage multiple subscription profiles remotely. The vendor-agnostic software can work in various network and cloud environments, supporting current and future IoT business and operating models, use cases, and monetization strategies.

Securing remote access: The practice of secure remote access involves a combination of security processes or solutions aimed at preventing unauthorized access to an organization’s digital assets and preventing the loss of sensitive data. Technologies such as endpoint security, virtual private network (VPN), zero-trust network access (ZTNA), network access control (NAC), etc must be an integral part of security hygiene. An IoT security strategy must incorporate Zero Trust to enforce policies for unauthorized access control that support existing firewall investment for integrated security posturing. The solution should intrinsically apply security policies based on the intensity of malicious behavior detected in IoT devices. A unified security policy management and secure access service edge (SASE) to WFH employees is highly recommended.

Monitoring attack penetration: A penetration test involves a simulated attack on a device, network, program, platform, wireless network, or employees to find bugs and vulnerabilities. Such tests can identify flaws in the processes, network infrastructure, firewalls, access points, staff, or physical assets. It helps in re-confirming if the implemented safeguards are watertight protection against a data breach as well as provides information and guidance for developing an organization’s security policies and plan of action in times of security breaches.

From a business perspective, there is palpable demand from consumers for companies to embrace IoT and M2M technology in their product and service offerings. Moreover, 5G connectivity will allow for easier, more reliable, and better results to provide that business-winning level of service. The scope and benefits of the M2M applications of 5G extend to all industries that use electronic machinery or equipment for their operations, ranging from transport, manufacturing, healthcare, education, and so on. However, the M2M security issue must at all times be strengthened and monitored for sustainable business continuity with a well-executed response plan in place for unsolicited cyber break-ins.

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