Experts’ fears for current generation’s knowledge of online security

25 Oct 2014

Photo by Robbie Reynolds

A greater emphasis on security is needed as the current generation is unaware of what’s at stake, a panel discussed at yesterday’s Innovation Ireland Forum in Dublin.

In the final panel discussion at the event on Friday, 25 October, Silicon Republic CEO and editor-at-large Ann O’Dea raised the issue of fears around the assurance of online security in a time when the internet of things (IoT) would see every device in a person’s life connected to the internet.

The panel consisted of some of the biggest names in IoT in Ireland, including Intel’s VP of IoT, Philip Moynagh; Prof Willie Donnelly, director of Telecommunications Software and Systems Group (TSSG) in Waterford Institute of Technology; Prof Gregory O’Hare, director of the UCD Earth Institute; and Paul Hickey, manager of systems and sustainability at ESB Networks.

Prof Gregory O’Hare (centre) gives his thoughts on Ireland’s place as a potential leader in IoT during a panel discussion at the Innovation Ireland Forum in Dublin. Photo by Robbie Reynolds

Speaking first, Moynagh referenced the recent hacking of companies in the US as a prime example of why the future of warfare is not in bombs and missiles, but malware and the internet.

“A day does not pass without a story of a Target (for example) losing a million customers’ data sets and we haven’t placed value on security, and it gets worse for future generations and the open way they throw information around and we need to get that sorted.”

He continued: “It used to be the case that armies faced each other, then it progressed to guerrilla warfare, then most recently it was to fly an aeroplane into a building but the next version would be to switch off the Irish grid power through a lack of security. The brilliance of connecting things has a downside if you don’t secure it.”

Making privacy a selling point for Ireland

As someone well-versed in Ireland’s electricity network, Hickey spoke of how “huge work had gone into that space” by ESB, which does not use use public internet for its inter-connected power supply for these very reasons.

Referring to the issue at a later point, it is his belief that people’s data must be firmly placed in the hands of the original owner.

“If you don’t want your data to be recorded, you should have a right to choose. Organisations should be able to collect enough data that’s usable but delete this when finished,” he said.

Prof Willie Donnelly (centre) takes part in a panel discussion at the Innovation Ireland Forum in Dublin. Photo by Robbie Reynolds

Donnelly, meanwhile, sees privacy with regard to IoT as something that, if firmly established, could make Ireland a place for companies to come, much like Amazon moving its web services division to Germany for its own strict privacy laws.

“One of the benefits of being a small country is that we should start exploring privacy and how we can lose data and retain it and if we can lead in this area, we can encourage companies to do some work here,” said Donnelly.

This can only be achieved with help and investment in the establishment of a research centre specifically catering to IoT, said O’Hare.

“In order to get the true emerging capability of Ireland as a nation, there needs to be a research centre of excellence specifically catering for IoT.”

Topmost photo: (Left to right) Silicon Republic CEO Ann O’Dea; Paul Hickey, manager, systems and sustainability, ESB Networks; Prof Gregory O’Hare, director, UCD Earth Institute; Prof Willie Donnelly, founder, director and chair of TSSG, and VP of research and innovation, Waterford Institute of Technology; and Philip Moynagh, VP, internet of things, Intel

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic