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What keeps DARPA up at night?

Although the Internet of Things opens many doors for innovation, it opens an even bigger door to cybersecurity risks for the 13 billion devices connected to the Internet.

Randy Garrett, program manager in the Information Innovation Office at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, said the increased connectivity and availability of data can be a threat to the security of individuals and the nation.

He added that the most worrisome security vulnerabilities occur when organizations that don't typically work together -- countries, large businesses and criminal organizations -- team up.

"Each one of those groups has a capability that it wouldn't have by itself," Garrett said at the Internet of Things: Connected Government event on Aug. 6. "If you're a nation-state and you have a criminal organization working for you, they can do things you don't want to take credit for and have areas of expertise you don't have."

A related issue is the lack of collaboration between U.S. intelligence organizations, he said. That's a problem that persists despite the considerable attention it drew in the wake of the 2001 terrorist attacks.

"If you want to do something nefarious and you just cross multiple boundaries -- organization boundaries, geographic boundaries -- and wow, it's almost going to depend on luck for us to know if that's happening," Garrett said.

DARPA is working on several programs to address the problem. XDATA is designed to perform fundamental algorithms for large-scale computing. It will be doing much of the analysis of data coming in from the Internet of Things. Another initiative, the Cyber Grand Challenge, pits hackers against one another in a competition to build software that can protect itself from attack.

On a smaller scale, Garrett said everyone needs to be conscious of the security risks associated with the Internet of Things. With such a heightened level of Internet connectivity, cybersecurity measures such as changing user names and passwords and being aware of what devices are connected to the Internet might give people an extra edge.

"The fundamental thing to remember is that all these devices are on the Internet, and you can't ignore them anymore," he said.

About the Author

Colby Hochmuth is a staff writer covering big data, cloud computing and the federal workforce. Connect with her on Twitter: @ColbyAnn.

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