The product safety paradox

With a predicted 12 billion IoT devices potentially in use worldwide by 2022, time is of the essence in protecting the end users from cyber attacks.


In our tech-obsessed modern world, there’s an emerging paradox ; the potential for smart devices and autonomous vehicles to improve their safe use is a key advantage and a clear justification for their existence in the marketplace. However, on the flip side they also represent a new target for cyber crime. With every new product development in the Internet of Things (IoT) there is a risk of it following with a compromise of security resulting in loss of data privacy, spoofing and malware attacks.

These threats are very real and with a predicted 12 billion IoT devices potentially in use worldwide by 2022 (Cisco VNI Forecast), time is of the essence in making it a requirement that the end users of these devices are protected. 

As an example to the scale of the potential problem of cyber security, in the autonomous and connected vehicles market it is estimated there will be over 33 million sold globally by the year 2040. This means that there will be millions of cars using our roads that are all connected to the infrastructure and to other vehicles and road users. The potential consequences of a cyber attack could be catastrophic and extremely dangerous. Vehicle thefts, collisions and loss of life could all be attributed to a data breach or systems fail as a result of a cyber attack whether this is terrorist initiated or a simple denial of service blackmail. 

The key to resolving this will be a robust and effective cyber security solution that can work across multiple software and communication interfaces.  This is as complicated as it sounds and will need constant research and development in order to keep up with ever changing and sophisticated advanced, persistent threats. Many developers of IoT devices are not best placed to build the interfaces that will keep their products safe from cyber attacks. This development work is costly and time consuming and requires continuous investment in order to keep ahead of the ‘hackers’. 

There needs to be more financial support and funding available to support businesses who develop reliable testing methods and standards for the safety and security of smart, app-based and autonomous products. 

The UK Government went some way towards this with the launch of the Cyber Skills Immediate Impact Fund (the CSIIF) in 2018, however this is only a drop in the ocean when you consider the global impacts of data hacks into products used by consumers across the entire globe. Also, this does not address the lack of global regulations and standards in operation which developers understand and can incorporate into any new product development.

Away from the developers, educating and raising awareness to consumers about the risks of using a product that’s not data safe is equally crucial. This is also a priority task for Government. If consumers are taught to ask the right questions when choosing a smart device and/or autonomous product, the winners in the marketplace will be those businesses who take cyber security risks seriously and supply to the market those products that ensure data privacy. 

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