Jamming is a potential crippling blow to internet of things-enabled hardware. It can bring down drones from the sky, disrupt network connections and lead to economic downtime. In the cybersecurity arena, jamming is more commonly known as dedicated denial of service attacks. According to a CORERO DDoS trend report, this method of cyberattack increased by an incredible 91 percent in 2017.
IoT devices are behind this surge in DDoS attacks, as many lack comprehensive cybersecurity protocols and can be easily jammed. While this deterrent is not enough to slow the pace of IoT adoption, enterprises hoping to make use of mass IoT market penetration must be aware of the risks, as well as what is being done to prevent IoT jamming.
Luckily, a recent study published in Optics Express gives some hope against rampant DDoS cybercrime. As with many technological innovations, the potential salvation is inspired by a system that already works inside the animal kingdom.
Studying the Eigenmannia
The Eigenmannia are a species of cave fish that exist in total darkness. Without light, these creatures need another way to hunt, communicate and otherwise "see" within the perpetual darkness. The researchers studying these fish discovered that they emitted an electric field to sense the environment and communicate with other fish.
Because two or more of these animals could emit the field near one another, the species had to have a way to stop the signal from getting disrupted, otherwise the fish couldn't thrive. The scientists learned the Eigenmannia have the ability to alter their signals. This capability is due to a unique neural algorithm in their brain activity. The purpose and function of the field remains in tact, but its frequency is changed just enough to avoid confusion.
This same trait can be harnessed to help create a light-based jamming avoidance response device.
Creating a jamming avoidance response device
When two IoT devices operating on the same frequency come close to each other, the fields become crossed, and jamming occurs. The closer the two pieces of hardware drift, the more the disruption intensifies.
However, with a JAR device, similar to the natural solution used by Eigenmannia, these IoT components could adjust their frequency, preserving the function of the signal while avoiding jamming. Using a light-based system would enable IoT devices to shift through a wide range of frequencies.
The resulting machine, created by the research team, shows promise.
"This could allow a smarter and more dynamic way to use our wireless communication systems without the need for the complicated coordination processes that currently prevent jamming, by reserving whole sections of bandwidth for specific phone carriers or users such as the military," said team lead Mable P. Fok.
While it won't single-handedly eliminate the threat of DDoS attacks, JAR device usage on a large scale has some advantages. Essentially, it is a low-cost solution for any agency that utilizes a plethora of IoT content. In addition to the aforementioned military use case, health care facilities like hospitals, air traffic control towers and even educational institutions could find immediate value in this technology.
Since a JAR device would likely lower the bandwidth needed for IoT hardware interaction, DDoS attacks could become less expensive. As these attacks continue to become more prevalent, the value of this research will likely increase. Designing IoT devices on software that can shift frequency will reduce costs and, hopefully, a more secure IoT landscape.
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