Internet of Overwhelming Things

As the era of Internet of Things (IoT) dawned, the fridge got hacked. Well, maybe not.

one lit lightbulb

In early 2014, as many media outlets such as NPR reported, security services vendor Proofpoint claimed to have detected the first IoT-based cyber attack involving “more than 750,000 malicious email communications coming from more than 100,000 everyday consumer gadgets such as home-networking routers, connected multi-media centers, televisions and at least one refrigerator that had been compromised and used as a platform to launch attacks.”

Subsequently, Symantec rebutted that initial report, instead blaming that old bugaboo of infected Windows-based computers. Nonetheless Symantec said it really had “uncovered one of the first and most interesting IoT threats, Linux.Darlloz, which infects Linux-based IoT devices such as routers, cameras, and entertainment systems.”

Whether it’s your fridge or your DVR is probably irrelevant. These reports should serve as an indicator of how rapidly the network security landscape is changing, and spark some questions about the potential for mischief in this new era.

Market research firm IDC predicts we’ll see 212 billion of these thingies deployed by the end of 2020. That makes for one heck of a malevolent botnet, opening doors to disrupt Internet connected devices at home or perhaps even in not-so-secret nuclear weapons facilities. Or, maybe just provide the means to prank a colleague with the exploding desk lamp trick.

Let’s be real, none of us (well, almost none) want to tie into everything over the Internet, including the kitchen sink.  But there’s no question the growing number of connected devices is going to bring a massive increase in traffic volumes. And that should get you thinking about this: How prepared is your networking infrastructure?

Without having the right network foundation in place, this brave new world could prove to be the Internet of Overwhelming Things (IoOT), leading to greater inefficiencies and growing security woes. To avoid this, data center networks must be more flexible, scalable, and efficient.

Many data centers have taken the first needed step, which is in virtualizing servers and applications, but often still rely on legacy networks that weren’t designed for today’s growing workloads. They simply can’t keep up with demands in an era of social media, mobile, cloud and big data.

Smart, flexible, agile, scalable…not exactly the words I’d use to describe legacy networks. When the rest of the computing world is moving toward consumption-based, anything-as-a-service computing and virtualization, why the heck are these old networks holding sway?

Undoubtedly part of the reason is too many data centers are locked in to single vendor solutions. No vendor in that situation is going to be eager to replace expensive, proprietary hardware solutions unless it’s with even more expensive, proprietary hardware solutions. The trick lies in figuring out how to migrate from that world of yesterday, to a future of open architecture, software-defined networking.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.