The Internet of Things (IoT) is set to grow exponentially in coming years, with IDC predicting machine-to-machine (M2M) connections will reach 200 billion in 2020. That’s 23 connections for every human being projected to live on the planet by then. But as M2M connections multiply, one nagging question keeps popping up: Will connections be secure? A recent commissioned study conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of SSH plants some doubt.

The Internet of Things Are M2M Connections Secure WIDE

The Internet of Things ecosystem

Techopedia defines the Internet of Things as “a computing concept that describes a future where everyday physical objects will be connected to the Internet and be able to identify themselves to other devices. The term is closely identified with RFID as the method of communication, although it also may include other sensor technologies, wireless technologies or QR codes.”

In the Internet of Things, an object is more than an object–it’s part of an ecosystem of “things” generating information that, in aggregate, create a smarter experience.

As M2M grows, so do security concerns

Forrester polled 151 US enterprise IT decision makers in various industries, including financial services, federal government, retail, energy/utilities, manufacturing and high tech, and found that 62 percent expected to increase their M2M transactions and processes in the following 12 months.

This bodes well for adopting the technology, but here is the problem: Forrester also found organizations aren’t paying enough attention to M2M security. “Few organizations appear to make the connection that good M2M security is an important component of data security strategy — a top priority for many firms,” the research firm said in the February, 2014 study “The Rise of IT Automation and the New Security Imperative.”

Focus on data security

The lack of data security is a troubling revelation, considering M2M often involves mission-critical systems. It’s all the more perplexing when you consider 96 percent of respondents cited data security as a priority for 2014. Compliance requirements are the motivator, with 70 percent citing compliance as driver of security investments.

Clearly, there is a disconnect. Investing in security to comply with data-privacy regulations is a must, but organizations must keep sight of the ultimate goal: protecting data and maintaining trust.

That means integrating security into the planning and development stages of any M2M implementation. Forrester recommends treating machine identities with the same care as user identities: “Make sure your compliance and security initiatives fully account for onboarding, offboarding, and monitoring of machine-based identities and credentials.”

The Internet of Things has the potential to transform our world, with its capacity to automate tasks and anticipate our needs. For that to happen, however, security questions have to be addressed now – not as an afterthought.

Pedro Pereira is an independent business writer and the author of this blog. AT&T has sponsored this blog post.