Dedicated M2M network brings greater security, robustness

Dedicated M2M network brings greater security, robustness

Summary: A separate network specifically for machine-to-machine communication could reduce security risks and make it harder to hack.

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TOPICS: Security, Networking
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The setting up of a separate, dedicated network specifically for machine-to-machine (M2M) communication can promote greater security and robustness of networks.

There should be an alternate wireless network dedicated solely for M2M communications, according to French M2M network operator Sigfox last month.

Hosting devices over cellular radios is expensive and power-consuming, so it is better to attach them to a network optimized for them--one that supports billions of devices while sending relatively little data at distinct intervals, Thomas Nicholls, the company's development chief and Internet of Things evangelist, said in a GigaOM report in November 2012.

A separate dedicated network could also be more secure in securing sensitive M2M networks, Michael Kiss, senior solutions consultant at Verizon's global strategic services, observed.

Potentially undetectable for long time
The inherent security risks of M2M lies in the fact that they are built to function without the need for any human intervention for extended periods of time, he explained.

"This presents a huge opportunity for hackers to explore and exploit vulnerabilities of the network, which could go undetected for long periods," the Verizon consultant said. "When discovered, a security breach may have already occurred."

The dedicated network will hence give organizations a greater degree of control in securing end-to-end communications, minimizing their risk of a potential breach, Kiss remarked. The security capabilities will also be more comprehensive, being tuned to the specific needs of the environment, he added.

Tobias Ryberg, senior analyst at Berg Insight, agreed, adding it will be easier to monitor and control a proprietary network. Fewer people will have detailed knowledge about closed technology and network platforms they can make inappropriate use of, he explained.

This dedicated network could also be more robust as the operating environment is also more controlled and undisturbed by network overload from mobile broadband, similar to the case with cellular networks, Ryberg added.

That is important because the greatest risk to M2M networks is mission critical processes failing because of technical problems, natural disasters or acts of sabotage, he explained.

The separate network for M2M communications could work for companies that operate mission critical infrastructure or very extensive networks with millions of nodes, and companies that transmit a high level of sensitive information, Ryberg pointed out.

Utilities for example, use a separate power line carrier or mesh networks for smart metering applications where they network millions of energy meter into people's homes, he remarked.

Higher costs involved, hard to define standards
Setting up a separate network for M2M devices will, however, incur a separate set of costs for companies, Kiss observed.

Resources need to be dedicated to building and testing the network, he explained.

When it comes to a non-dedicated communication network, many businesses will see the financial advantages in leveraging a shared network resource on an existing domestic network, Kiss explained.

That said, organizations will need to assess the potential risk of leveraging a shared communication network as compared to the additional cost of implementing a dedicated network, Kiss advised.

There is also the industry wide obstacle of defining global standards for the use of private networks, as the allocation of suitable frequency bands would differ between regions and countries, Ryberg added.

As the trend tends to communication networks with dedicated usage and security functions, governments and industry bodies will need to come together to define international standards, he advised.

Topics: Security, Networking

Ellyne Phneah

About Ellyne Phneah

Elly grew up on the adrenaline of crime fiction and it spurred her interest in cybercrime, privacy and the terror on the dark side of IT. At ZDNet Asia, she has made it her mission to warn readers of upcoming security threats, while also covering other tech issues.

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  • How Would A Dedicated Network Help?

    Note that hackers are already figuring out how to set up their own GSM base stations to communicate with mobile phones, and mobile phones have always been on dedicated networks. So how will these new devices be any different? Running away from the hackers isn't going to save you.
    ldo17