The CeBIT trade show is full of robots showing off what they can do. But what happens when they make a mistake?
One company showed a robot’s arm swing out and knock down a stack of boxes with full mechanical force. It would be unlucky for anyone standing near it.
IT security specialist Rafael Fedler from the company N-Side Attack Logic created the example to show it was possible to remotely hack a device far away in southern Germany and take control over it. It was easy, he said. Industry uses an “unbelievable amount of old software” and there are often security gaps.
This year’s CeBIT addresses the possibilities of digitization, with separate sections dedicated to data, autonomous driving, drones and robots. But the trade fair also focused on security, a growing concern for companies.
As businesses connect sales and marketing, logistics, warehousing and production to increase productivity and profit, this also makes them more vulnerable to hacking.
Bitkom, a German technology association, estimates that networking production facilities in six industries, including carmakers and the chemical industry, will increase productivity in Germany by the year 2025 by as much as €78.5 billion, or $84.9 billion.
“As companies become more and more connected, demands for IT security are changing fast and providers have to react.”
But this also means more risk and not just in office networks and production systems. Surveillance cameras, baby monitors and smoke alarms are also linked via the internet and security specialist Mr. Fedler showed visitors at his stand just how low security standards often are. He used a model of a smart home to show how many access attempts there were – the majority unnoticed by inhabitants.
At the trade fair, IT security providers showed software to monitor networks, systems to manage devices and firewalls to protect key infrastructure. They positioned themselves as consultants able to provide security solutions and contingency backup plans.
Germany’s biggest telecom provider Deutsche Telekom is marketing a solution for preventing and identifying weak points and breakdowns at industrial plants connected to the internet.
“Industrial plants in particular often run decades more or less untouched by software or technological updates, because no one wants to upset finely-tuned production processes,” said Dirk Backofen, head of Deutsche Telekom’s IT security division. “This makes equipment vulnerable in the networked age,” he said, adding that it is critical to protect control systems.
IT security has huge growth potential. Gartner market research predicts that $90 billion will be spent on IT security worldwide this year, 7.6 percent more than in 2016. This is expected to rise to $113 billion by 2020. Much of this increased spending will be directed towards early detection and quick response to attacks, according to the market researcher.
Digitization offers an opportunity for the IT security industry, but also a challenge. “As companies become more and more connected, demands for IT security are changing fast and providers have to react,” said Eva Chen, head of Japanese IT security company Trend Micro. Businesses can no longer count solely on classic antivirus software alone.
Ms. Chen said there are also structural reasons why smart devices often have poor security. Manufacturers, she says, may now recognize the significance of IT security, but this aspect is still often not sufficiently stressed in marketing, partly because customers rarely ask about it. “People probably won’t pay much more attention to this until they experience the problem,” Ms. Chen said. Demonstrations like the robot hack at the trade fair might help to raise awareness.
Data is also an area of vulnerability for many companies as they seek new ways to gather and use information. At Konica Minolta’s Office of the Future, for example, employees are assigned an office when entering the building, the height of the desk is automatically adjusted and their appointment calendar displayed, along with suggestions for coffee breaks with colleagues.
Car and IT companies are in a race to launch a new era of mobility and the technological basis for robot cars is already taking shape. At CeBIT, Volkswagen showed how quantum computer technology will control the flow of traffic and enable drivers to avoid traffic jams.
Other innovations on show included drones by chip giant Intel to maintain offshore oil rigs, wind farms and other industrial sites as well as subterranean facilities, saving high costs.
New exoskeletons shown by Germany’s education ministry and by Vodafone also built wearable bridges between people and machines. The suits they displayed, as shown in the image above, can help wearers lift heavy loads or allow paraplegics to walk.
Ina Karabasz writes about IT and telecoms for Handelsblatt. Handelsblatt’s Christof Kerkmann covers companies and markets and specializes in IT. To contact the authors: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com