Cisco promises to make IoT safer, taps Jasper expertise

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Security was a prominent theme at the Cisco Partner Summit in San Francisco last week, and it’s clear that Cisco intends to play a fundamental role in securing the Internet of Things (IoT).

“The internet as we know it today, and the network that you operate, will not work for the Internet of Things,” said Rowan Trollope, Cisco senior vice president and general manager of the IoT and applications group, according to Network World. “We can solve that problem because we own the network.”

That assertion comes amid ongoing attacks on IoT devices, including one last month that saw devices such as baby monitors, webcams and thermostats brought down as a result of distributed denial of services attacks. Experts say security needs to be built into IoT from the get-go, and champions of cellular-based IoT technologies say they are particularly well positioned to deliver on security.

Within the next year, Cisco plans to launch a program to certify IoT devices as compatible with its network-based software. Among other things, Network World reported, the software should be able to automatically authorize these devices on a “white-list” basis, allowing only endpoints that are safe instead of trying to find and block those that aren't. Devices themselves will play a role, telling the network what kinds of things they should be able to do, such as only connecting to the home server for the service it provides.

RELATED: Cisco closes acquisition of Jasper, expanding IoT expertise

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When Cisco completed its $1.4 billion acquisition of Jasper Technologies this past March, it said the combined entity would be in a unique position to help service providers meet the IoT needs of their customers. Indeed, part of what Cisco is integrating now is a result of that acquisition. Some of the world's largest IT solution vendors – including IBM, Microsoft, Salesforce and SAP – had been using Jasper's IoT service platform at the time of the acquisition.

To illustrate what devices can do on Cisco’s networks, executives point to its partnership with Apple and its iPhone and iPads. The two companies announced a collaboration last year that came to fruition this past September with better Wi-Fi roaming, integrated VoIP calls and priority for certain business apps via iOS 10. Over the summer, more than 30 customers and partners – ranging from BT in the UK to KDDI in Japan – participated in early field trials to help refine the solution, according to Cisco.

Although it’s pervasive in IP networks, Cisco can only accomplish so much as one company. Trollope said the company hopes to get some of the IoT capabilities standardized, and it’s helping to push Manufacturers Usage Description (MUD) through the Internet Engineering Task Force. He said that because Cisco can work faster than a standards body, it will deploy the technology ahead of time, Network World reported. Chip companies will play a key role to getting more devices equipped to participate.

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