Insight By Akamai

Zero Trust: IoT, machine-to-machine communication and network security

IoT Technologies

Those traditional approaches of trying to protect your perimeter, that is going away, You need to now deploy them in a coherent and cohesive manner, so that everything sort of works together.

When Vint Cerf and his colleagues were putting together the internet decades ago, nobody even considered millions of small devices, like sensors, with internet addresses. In fact, until recently, nobody gave a second thought to the Internet of Things, or IoT. Now, the concern is focused on the proliferation and cybersecurity on these devices. Gartner estimates that by 2020 there will be 21 billion IoT devices all over the world.

Akamai Technologies is positioned to assist in managing the cybersecurity of these devices. This is because it has a network around the world that is comprised of 250,000 servers in over 2,700 locations. This gives them the first filter when devices seek to communicate over the Internet.

David Yoon, senior director of Akamai’s public sector, discussed this recently with Federal News Radio at the Akamai Government Forum in Washington, D.C.

“We have with this distributed platform, or levering that as a multi-tenant platform, to really block any kind of attacks on malware and bots that are malicious out on the edge,” he said.

Further, Akamai manages 9 billion logins per year. What they have noticed is that many of these logins are from bots. Automated login from the Internet of Things means we will have to use all the tools at our disposal to control this threat.

This was demonstrated with an attack in 2016 called Mirai. It brought in devices like cameras and home routers to attack a cyber journalist. The disturbing part of this attack is that the code was published in forums where other hackers can modify it to attack in the future. This has led Yoon and others to look at cybersecurity in new ways.

“Those traditional approaches of trying to protect your perimeter, that is going away,” he said. “You need to now deploy them in a coherent and cohesive manner, so that everything sort of works together.”

The two primary factors in controlling IoT is the ability to scale and setting appropriate policy.

Scaling can be applied to IoT devices that are outside the network as well as devices that are inside. Today, bots are being arrayed in something called a “bot army.” They are being used for rapid sign-on for something as innocuous as a sale on shoes and something as malicious as penetrating a Defense Department site.

Akamai has a broad base on knowledge when it comes to identifying bots. This means that it can determine whether it is something like Google scanning your site or if it is activity that is more serious. Akamai can profile the internet address where the activity originates and score it to help you determine what to do.

With millions of attacks being reported, human beings just can’t keep up. For this reason, artificial intelligence and machine learning must be applied to respond in a timely manner.  Some will say the real threat is machine-to-machine — or machine-to-machine communication.

Policy also is important. This approach must be written in such a manner that it applies to current threats, but also have the flexibility to adapt to unpredicted attacks in the future.

Policy is important because of insider threat. For example, just because someone has the right to access a document doesn’t mean that access will last forever. When applying concepts like Zero Trust to the policy arena, one can eliminate malicious code from moving laterally inside the network.

Regardless of the tools used or approaches applied, Yoon said the best defense is when all pieces of the puzzle are working together.

“Any new techniques or implications that are implied have to be governed by coordinated policies so that everything works holistically together,” he said.


Listen to the full interview: 

Featured speakers

  • David Yoon

    Senior Director, Public Sector, Akamai Technologies

  • John Gilroy

    Host of Federal Tech Talk,