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When the Unconnected World Becomes the Next Cyber Threat

This post was initially posted on Bianca's Linkedin on Nov. 7. You can follow her here

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In the spirit of ending cyber security month with a bang, I have been thinking a lot about how the world will look once all these predicted devices become connected into our every day life. It’s crazy to think how much the world of IoT has changed from the smart fridge to now connecting previously dumb devices to sensors and pieces of technology that can actually collect interesting and usable data. 

I think about this all the time, when I think about how much of my data is being currently exploited by the Apple’s, Google’s and apps of this world. Let me save you the time: the amount of data they track and have access to is exponential. In today’s world everyone has access to your data, so get over the notion of privacy before you continue to read this. 

It’s no wonder that smartphone technology has had a global influence. According to Statista, only 122.2 million smartphones were sold to end users in 2007. But, only 8 years later, in 2015, over 1424 million smartphones were sold. CRAZY change, right? Goldman Sachs has shown even further dependencies on mobile phones by users, as they are within arms reach 90% of time and users check them around 150 times a day. Overall, Gartner expects the inclusion of nearly 26 billion devices, with a “global economic value-add” of $1.9 trillion by 2020. Others are even more optimistic: The International Data Corporation (IDC), for one, estimates that the universe of things connected to the Internet will generate nearly $9 trillion in annual sales by 2020. 

So, what are the things I keep in mind when thinking about the connection of the unconnected. Well, how about we start with NFC… 

 

How does NFC really work?

NFC, short for Near Field Communication, is a form of wireless communication between two electronic devices and depends on the devices being tapped together or come in close proximity (within 4 inches) of each other.

 

How is NFC being used in business today?

NFC is being used in a variety of industries as it enables easy network access and data sharing. It makes the process of connecting devices frictionless. Just tap and go.

The industry most commonly using the technology is banking for the mobile wallet. A mobile wallet being a smartphone or credit card communicating with a payment terminal (this is how Apple Pay and "tap" credit cards work). 

NFC has made a significant impact on business because it relies on user control with expressed intent; the difference between just proximity is that new NFC technology enables the user to express intent, making the use of app and authentication really important. 

It is also widely used today in access control (to open a door) which we see more and more manifested in the hospitality business. Instead of inserting card into door reader, you just tap. 

There is some use in automotive and transportation happening today as well, which will enable the future of smart cities and likely automation of some jobs. 

 

As NFC evolves, what future business uses can we anticipate? 

To connect the unconnected!

By simply embedding NFC tags in unpowered, unconnected things, you can add intelligence anywhere and capture data. Pretty cool? I think so! I believe this will bring a whole other meaning to data, identity and privacy. 

An examples is how we can fundamentally change how we purchase fashion or any other type of in-store experience. Whether in a grocery store or clothing store, a person can hover over an item of food or clothing and get recipe ideas or show you what you might look like in a piece of clothing or what the fit would be on a mannequin. 

 

What kind of security measures come along with using NFC? It’s a scary world...

When you think of the fact that we are using Near Field Communication, especially for payment purposes, most people are firstly concerned about the security and safety of their private information. For example, where, how, and who has access to their credit card information. What is the authentication?

I consistently read stories of security attacks including eavesdropping, data corruption or modification, interception attacks, and physical thefts. 

Eavesdropping is a big one -- what is it? This is when a 3rd party intercepts the communication between two parties. The danger in this the hijacking of personal details - such as credit card information. 

Companies such as Starbucks have addressed this by limiting the range of NFC itself. Another way is to secure the information by encrypting it. Therefore, if it were hacked, the information gained wouldn't be useful. 

Another thing to think about is authentication (my world in particular). This is an area where biometrics can help significantly (this is what my company, BioConnect specializes in). When NFC is initiated, placing fingerprint, spoken voice or enabling something like behavioural biometrics (just the way you hold your smartphone), attached to parameters of data such as device ID, location will make this technology even more secure. 

 

No amount of encryption can protect a consumer from a stolen phone. If a smartphone is stolen, the thief could theoretically wave the phone over a card reader at a store to make a purchase. Right? So the ability to authenticate a user and device before a transaction will be key to protection. 

 
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