IoT Security with Zeeshan Rizvi

IoT Security Woes Will Shift the Employment Landscape for Technical Professionals

            From smart locks to smart refrigerators, from smart cars to smart speakers, there are so many IoT, “Internet of Things” devices already on the market and in our homes. IoT devices are estimated to reach over 75 billion in 2025. This technology is bound to impact our world—both in relation to the technology industry and beyond it—and, to get a better understanding of that impact, we sat down with Zeeshan Rizvi who has over 18 years of experience leading technology strategy. With his DevOps, Automation, IoT, and Security expertise, Zeeshan Rizvi was able to articulate the impact that IoT and emerging architectures will have on both the world as a whole and the employment landscape for technical professionals.

In Zeeshan Rizvi’s home there are around 35 IoT devices already. The problem that Mr. Rizvi sees with this is that, “what you see in the IoT space today is not scalable. We’re still trying to solve security issues the old way”.  These security and reliability landmines could derail our lives as we begin to rely more heavily on IoT and hyper connected devices, which will prompt a major shift in the technical landscape for companies and technical professionals. That’s where emerging architecture like edge and fog computing comes in.

            According to Mr. Rizvi, “IoT devices are currently deployed with certain endpoints that have limits.” For example, a building with automatic lights that turn on or off when someone enters or leaves the room can do so thanks to a sensor. If they’re IoT sensors, they are connected to the internet and can gather detailed data and information about how often each room is used, and, when that data is analyzed, the owner of the building can save money on electricity or cooling and heating costs by identifying times of day when specific spaces are used or not used. When you expand this to a multi-million dollar real estate company, saving even a fraction of the cost on utility bills for each building in their portfolio could save them hundreds of thousands of dollars annually. But, in order to process data, you can’t just have a sensor, you need something a little more complex than that according to Mr. Rizvi. He said, “IoT can lead to the ability to quantify energy costs. This is exactly what’s happening today with smart buildings, cities and in the Cloud.”

            IoT technology has already benefited several smart cities in a myriad of ways. According to Forbes, San Fransisco—which ranks as a top 10 global smart city in every major category—was able to create, “a life-saving Heat Vulnerability Index that collates massive amounts of data from satellite imagery, temperature readings, and data sets based on culture, behavior, and other demographic characteristics.” In Singapore, their Intelligent Transport System allows for real-time traffic information delivered through GPS-enabled taxis and integrates the public transportation structure while also making buses more punctual. They have a better idea of how much to charge on toll roads depending on traffic surges and they’ve been able to get a handle on their considerable traffic challenges. But, as more and more cities see the benefits of the smart city model, an increasing demand will be placed on existing IoT technology.

            Another challenge with the current IoT infrastructure is that, sometimes, data needs to be available immediately, in real time. Mr. Rizvi related it to a connected car. Imagine the car is slowing down to stop at a red light and someone walks in front of the car. If the sensor in the car needs  to shift the data  to the Cloud  to make a decision to move forward or not and there’s any lag, it can become a life or death issue.  Latency—or the delay before a transfer of data begins—can cripple a world that relies on IoT devices and cause countless problems. Similarly if there’s a security breach between IoT end point and cloud it can lead to very bad scenarios at a very large scale.

            As IoT devices stand today, according to Mr. Rizvi, it’s a two-way road. First, the sensor picks up data and shifts it up to the Cloud before shifting it down to the sensor to make an informed choice. This method isn’t sustainable and it certainly isn’t scalable. Instead, emerging architectures would rely on a more decentralized computer. Mr. Rizvi explained it as, “providing a middle level between the end points to help reduce the latency that exists. The middle point will exist outside of the device on another object.” In our connected car example, this middle point could be on a nearby street pole or a transformer, depending on where the process is needed.

            Who will determine how many middle points are needed? Mr. Rizvi said, “The National Institute for Technology released the Fog computing  standard in late 3rd quarter of 2018.” With all of the still-expanding numbers of IoT devices requiring emerging architecture in the not-so-distant future, more technical professionals with security expertise will be needed at a variety of companies with a focus on distributed security models.

            Right now, most security architecture is centralized, which poses a major problem. According to Mr. Rizvi, “there will be more than 30 billion IoT devices by 2020 and it will increase by 75 million in 2025, according to different estimates. There’s already a shortage of cybersecurity professionals and those professionals are still being trained on how security currently is, rather than what will change when it’s decentralized.”

            So, what will it take for technical professionals to succeed as the world of cybersecurity shifts towards emerging architecture protocols? Mr. Rizvi anticipates that the following 3 skills will be more important than ever: DevOps, Automation, and Security.

            With the number of devices in the billions, deploying software updates would take far too long to do each one individually. This is why Mr. Rizvi identified Automation and DevOps as key areas where more technical professionals will be needed applying to IoT, Fog and Security applications. According to, “DevOps accelerators and services allow intelligent automation and power the industrial IoT and consumer IoT companies with the capabilities of deployment, testing, build, and continuous integration.” Deploying updates to the growing number of IoT devices and automating these deployments allows organizations to save a lot of time while maintaining the security of their technology.

            He said, “the majority of my career has been focused on automation and in order to be successful in the market we’re moving towards, you have to learn automation and then orchestration—which is an extension of automation to an adjacent system.” Where should technical professionals shift their focus if they want to play an essential role in the technology market we’re moving towards? Security, analytics, and automation.

            To process and thoroughly understand all of the data that IoT devices bring in, Data Scientists and Data Analysts will play a key role. Thinking back to our car example from before, it’s up to data experts to analyze the difference between a person walking in front of your car to a large white line being painted on the pavement in front of your car. One is an obstruction that needs to trigger an automatic response from your car’s breaks, the other plays no importance to you or your vehicle and your smart car needs to be able to understand the difference. This is only possible with analytics.  And to perform it at scale we need automation and orchestration skills as Mr Rizvi correctly pointed out. We can not solve this problem through manual steps.

IT Professionals with relevant security, analytics, and automation knowledge will be in high demand and companies may face particularly shallow pools of available talent in these key areas. From programming languages like Python to running analytics in the Cloud, current technical professionals who build these skills now will be in high demand as the technology marketplace changes and shifts towards decentralized computing. If you want to expand your skills in these key areas, there are a lot of resources available to you. CIO recently ranked the top 15 data science certifications, Business News Daily released the best information security certifications of 2019, and Linux Academy, Udemy, and Coursera also have in-depth courses where you can explore automation, analytics, security, and more. Expanding your technical knowledge in these areas will help your career prospects as the rate of IoT expansion continues to grow.