|By Jason Bloomberg||
|November 15, 2013 08:00 AM EST||
Your alarm clock jars you awake. You stumble to the kitchen, fire up your coffee maker, grab some milk from the fridge, and pour yourself a bowl of cereal. You turn down the thermostat before you head to your car. You park your sedan in your usual spot in the garage at work, and you enter your office building by waving your badge at the door. Finally, you drop into your chair and fire up your computer.
A mundane story, one millions of people trudge through every day with only minor variations. But here’s the question: how many Internet-connected devices did you interact with between opening your eyes and logging in? Let’s see: alarm clock, coffee maker, fridge, thermostat, your automobile, all the stop lights, traffic cameras, toll transceivers, and in-road traffic sensors on your commute, and finally your badge and the door. OK, maybe your household appliances aren’t on the Internet yet. Give them a few years.
Now ask yourself: how many of those net-connected doodads are secure? The answer: none of them. Every device on this list is woefully unprotected from various attacks, and to make matters worse, many of them might contain confidential information ripe for the picking. And if all that weren’t sufficiently disconcerting, the vendors of such miscellany aren’t particularly motivated to make them secure – even if they knew how to do it properly. Which they don’t. Nevertheless, we blindly forge ahead, building out the Internet of Things (IoT), as though the security issues will somehow resolve themselves. Just how worried should we be?
The Bad and the Ugly – but None of the Good
This tale of woe begins with Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags. These innocuous tags appear in everything from product packaging to airport tarmac equipment to passports to, yes, your security badge. And as you would expect from the tone of this ZapFlash, RFID tags are dead simple to hack. They come in two flavors: passive and active. The passive ones need no power source; they simply respond when the right signal gets close enough to them. No encryption, no authentication, no nothing. Anyone with the right device (which you can easily obtain over the Internet, of course) can read your tag simply by getting their snooping device close enough to it. Have you ever walked down the street with your security badge, or through an airport with your passport? Has anybody ever passed within a few feet of you? Stupid questions, right?
So, how do the best RFID security minds recommend protecting your RFID tags from compromise? Put them in protective sleeves. And no, wrapping your passport in aluminum foil won’t do. You need a special Faraday cage sleeve. But even if you manage to keep your RFID tags in an effective sleeve, all a hacker has to do is wait till you take it out. Recommending a sleeve to protect the IoT from attack is about as effective as climbing under school desks was at surviving a Cold War nuke.
Surely the technology in our increasingly cyber-aware automobiles is more secure than your run of the mill RFID tag, right? Sorry, no. Today’s cars have fifty or more tiny computers called electronic control units that control all aspects of the vehicle’s function. These units communicate with each other via a Controller Area Network (CAN). As vehicle manufacturers increasingly provide Internet access to their autos, hackers can easily access the CAN remotely – and with it, all the functions of the car. Brakes. Steering. Engine. Everything down to the radio.
There are two primary modes of protection the car manufacturers are implementing to prevent hackers from using these weaknesses to steal cars, kill targeted individuals, or simply wreak havoc. First, CAN protocols are proprietary. And second, the manufacturers are keeping all the details secret.
Neither technique, of course, provides any true measure of security, as researchers proved at a recent DefCon conference. Secrets are virtually impossible to keep in today’s Facebooked world. Also keep in mind, any authorized repair shop will have a diagnostic machine that interfaces with the CAN. If a hacker doesn’t want to bother reverse engineering the proprietary protocol directly, they can simply get their hands one of those machines and hack that.
Why the IoT is so Hard to Secure
There are both business and technical reasons why the IoT is so difficult to secure. On the technical side, the core problem is that the tried-and-true technologies we use to secure traditional interactions with the Internet just don’t work well – if they work at all. To use Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) technology, for example, each endpoint must be able to store digital keys and run encryption and decryption algorithms, conduct sophisticated handshakes to establish secure SSL connections, etc. However, many IoT nodes like the passive RFID tags simply don’t have the electrical power, storage, or processing power necessary to tackle even the simplest of PKI tasks.
Secondly, a large part of the IoT approach involves machine-to-machine (M2M) communication. In other words, sensors and other IoT endpoints talk to each other, instead of talking to a server somewhere. If your smart thermostat tells your dishwasher when to run, that communication might be running over your home Wi-Fi or perhaps Bluetooth or some other local network protocol that doesn’t require traffic to actually go over the Internet. And not only does it go without saying that Wi-Fi and Bluetooth protocols are shockingly easy to hack, but how are the two communicating nodes supposed to know that the information coming from the other is authorized? Essentially, any kind of M2M interaction requires a certain level of trust, only we have no way of providing that trust in the first place, or revoking it should a breach occur. How will your dishwasher know someone has hacked your thermostat?
In fact, the two examples above provide special cases of a broader problem: the IoT gives us no way to control permissions. Let’s say you figure it’s a good idea for said thermostat to Tweet certain information so it’s easy for you to monitor your home while you’re away. If a hacker compromises the thermostat, they automatically get your Twitter login – and you no longer have any way to control your Tweets.
The final challenge I’ll consider here (keeping in mind there are sure to be dozens of others) is the fact that devices on the Internet must have IP addresses – and in many cases, IoT sensors wouldn’t work properly behind firewalls. They must have public IP addresses that anyone can access. And if someone can access them, then someone will. Ever heard of Shodan? It’s a tool for finding IP addresses for random devices, including baby monitors, Webcams, security systems, and all manner of other bric-a-brac. How would you like a hacker to compromise your baby monitor? It’s happened before, and it’ll happen again.
Scanning random IP addresses, however, is only practical for the familiar IPv4 space. As we move to IPv6, there will be so many possible addresses that scanning them at random will be much more difficult. This advantage, however, is weaker than you might think. First, it simply presents an interesting challenge to enterprising hackers out there. How long will it take for a Shodan 2.0 to be IPv6 compatible? Secondly, IPv6 can actually make it more difficult for an organization with many IoT sensors to secure them (assuming they have any idea how to do so in the first place), because IPv6 makes it more difficult for an authorized party to scan for them as well. And if you don’t know what devices and sensors you have, you can’t control, manage, or secure them.
Such technical issues, of course, aren’t the whole story. On the business side, the problems are even more slippery. There is no agreement on how or even whether to address IoT security. Few countries have any regulation requiring companies to implement security in their devices. And there’s no market pressure forcing such vendors to get their act together. We, the customers, have simply grown too complacent. If we won’t pay more for secure automobiles and refrigerators, then rest assured no company will bother to go through the trouble to secure them.
The ZapThink Take
You were hoping I had some slick, imaginative approach for solving these issues, right? Sorry to disappoint. But rather than throwing our collective hands in the air, dumping all our devices down the garbage chute, and moving to a cave on Borneo somewhere, we must realize that the only way we’ll ever solve this riddle is by taking an entirely different perspective on securing technology.
We cannot impose security from the outside onto each sensor. It’s simply too easy for hackers to get a hold of them and defeat whatever mechanism we’ve put in place. Instead, the sensors themselves must be inherently secure. Only when a hacker can break open a sensor, reverse engineer it as well as the communication protocols it uses, and still not be able to hack into it or use it to hack into something else will we finally be able to sleep at night. Solve this challenge and I promise you, you’ll be very, very rich.
As enterprises work to take advantage of Big Data technologies, they frequently become distracted by product-level decisions. In most new Big Data builds this approach is completely counter-productive: it presupposes tools that may not be a fit for development teams, forces IT to take on the burden of evaluating and maintaining unfamiliar technology, and represents a major up-front expense. In his session at @BigDataExpo at @ThingsExpo, Andrew Warfield, CTO and Co-Founder of Coho Data, will dis...
Feb. 7, 2016 07:00 AM EST Reads: 101
SYS-CON Events announced today that Fusion, a leading provider of cloud services, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Fusion, a leading provider of integrated cloud solutions to small, medium and large businesses, is the industry's single source for the cloud. Fusion's advanced, proprietary cloud service platform enables the integration of leading edge solutions in the cloud, including clou...
Feb. 6, 2016 03:30 PM EST Reads: 709
With the Apple Watch making its way onto wrists all over the world, it’s only a matter of time before it becomes a staple in the workplace. In fact, Forrester reported that 68 percent of technology and business decision-makers characterize wearables as a top priority for 2015. Recognizing their business value early on, FinancialForce.com was the first to bring ERP to wearables, helping streamline communication across front and back office functions. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Kevin Roberts...
Feb. 6, 2016 03:15 PM EST Reads: 328
SYS-CON Events announced today that Commvault, a global leader in enterprise data protection and information management, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7–9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Commvault is a leading provider of data protection and information management...
Feb. 6, 2016 02:30 PM EST Reads: 355
SYS-CON Events announced today that Alert Logic, Inc., the leading provider of Security-as-a-Service solutions for the cloud, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Alert Logic, Inc., provides Security-as-a-Service for on-premises, cloud, and hybrid infrastructures, delivering deep security insight and continuous protection for customers at a lower cost than traditional security solutions. Ful...
Feb. 6, 2016 01:30 PM EST Reads: 345
SYS-CON Events announced today that VAI, a leading ERP software provider, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. VAI (Vormittag Associates, Inc.) is a leading independent mid-market ERP software developer renowned for its flexible solutions and ability to automate critical business functions for the distribution, manufacturing, specialty retail and service sectors. An IBM Premier Business Part...
Feb. 6, 2016 01:00 PM EST Reads: 541
The cloud promises new levels of agility and cost-savings for Big Data, data warehousing and analytics. But it’s challenging to understand all the options – from IaaS and PaaS to newer services like HaaS (Hadoop as a Service) and BDaaS (Big Data as a Service). In her session at @BigDataExpo at @ThingsExpo, Hannah Smalltree, a director at Cazena, will provide an educational overview of emerging “as-a-service” options for Big Data in the cloud. This is critical background for IT and data profes...
Feb. 6, 2016 11:00 AM EST Reads: 121
With an estimated 50 billion devices connected to the Internet by 2020, several industries will begin to expand their capabilities for retaining end point data at the edge to better utilize the range of data types and sheer volume of M2M data generated by the Internet of Things. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Don DeLoach, CEO and President of Infobright, will discuss the infrastructures businesses will need to implement to handle this explosion of data by providing specific use cases for filte...
Feb. 6, 2016 11:00 AM EST
Fortunately, meaningful and tangible business cases for IoT are plentiful in a broad array of industries and vertical markets. These range from simple warranty cost reduction for capital intensive assets, to minimizing downtime for vital business tools, to creating feedback loops improving product design, to improving and enhancing enterprise customer experiences. All of these business cases, which will be briefly explored in this session, hinge on cost effectively extracting relevant data from ...
Feb. 6, 2016 09:00 AM EST
SYS-CON Events announced today that Interoute, owner-operator of one of Europe's largest networks and a global cloud services platform, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7-9, 2015 at the Javits Center in New York, New York. Interoute is the owner-operator of one of Europe's largest networks and a global cloud services platform which encompasses 12 data centers, 14 virtual data centers and 31 colocation centers, with connections to 195 ad...
Feb. 6, 2016 05:00 AM EST Reads: 332
Most people haven’t heard the word, “gamification,” even though they probably, and perhaps unwittingly, participate in it every day. Gamification is “the process of adding games or game-like elements to something (as a task) so as to encourage participation.” Further, gamification is about bringing game mechanics – rules, constructs, processes, and methods – into the real world in an effort to engage people. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Robert Endo, owner and engagement manager of Intrepid D...
Feb. 5, 2016 09:00 PM EST Reads: 775
Eighty percent of a data scientist’s time is spent gathering and cleaning up data, and 80% of all data is unstructured and almost never analyzed. Cognitive computing, in combination with Big Data, is changing the equation by creating data reservoirs and using natural language processing to enable analysis of unstructured data sources. This is impacting every aspect of the analytics profession from how data is mined (and by whom) to how it is delivered. This is not some futuristic vision: it's ha...
Feb. 2, 2016 02:00 PM EST Reads: 406
WebRTC has had a real tough three or four years, and so have those working with it. Only a few short years ago, the development world were excited about WebRTC and proclaiming how awesome it was. You might have played with the technology a couple of years ago, only to find the extra infrastructure requirements were painful to implement and poorly documented. This probably left a bitter taste in your mouth, especially when things went wrong.
Feb. 2, 2016 04:30 AM EST Reads: 839
Learn how IoT, cloud, social networks and last but not least, humans, can be integrated into a seamless integration of cooperative organisms both cybernetic and biological. This has been enabled by recent advances in IoT device capabilities, messaging frameworks, presence and collaboration services, where devices can share information and make independent and human assisted decisions based upon social status from other entities. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Michael Heydt, founder of Seamless...
Feb. 1, 2016 05:00 AM EST Reads: 923
The IoT's basic concept of collecting data from as many sources possible to drive better decision making, create process innovation and realize additional revenue has been in use at large enterprises with deep pockets for decades. So what has changed? In his session at @ThingsExpo, Prasanna Sivaramakrishnan, Solutions Architect at Red Hat, discussed the impact commodity hardware, ubiquitous connectivity, and innovations in open source software are having on the connected universe of people, thi...
Jan. 31, 2016 09:00 PM EST Reads: 718
WebRTC: together these advances have created a perfect storm of technologies that are disrupting and transforming classic communications models and ecosystems. In his session at WebRTC Summit, Cary Bran, VP of Innovation and New Ventures at Plantronics and PLT Labs, provided an overview of this technological shift, including associated business and consumer communications impacts, and opportunities it may enable, complement or entirely transform.
Jan. 31, 2016 07:15 PM EST Reads: 1,135
There are so many tools and techniques for data analytics that even for a data scientist the choices, possible systems, and even the types of data can be daunting. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Chris Harrold, Global CTO for Big Data Solutions for EMC Corporation, showed how to perform a simple, but meaningful analysis of social sentiment data using freely available tools that take only minutes to download and install. Participants received the download information, scripts, and complete end-t...
Jan. 31, 2016 10:00 AM EST Reads: 1,201
For manufacturers, the Internet of Things (IoT) represents a jumping-off point for innovation, jobs, and revenue creation. But to adequately seize the opportunity, manufacturers must design devices that are interconnected, can continually sense their environment and process huge amounts of data. As a first step, manufacturers must embrace a new product development ecosystem in order to support these products.
Jan. 31, 2016 10:00 AM EST Reads: 798
Manufacturing connected IoT versions of traditional products requires more than multiple deep technology skills. It also requires a shift in mindset, to realize that connected, sensor-enabled “things” act more like services than what we usually think of as products. In his session at @ThingsExpo, David Friedman, CEO and co-founder of Ayla Networks, discussed how when sensors start generating detailed real-world data about products and how they’re being used, smart manufacturers can use the dat...
Jan. 30, 2016 07:45 PM EST Reads: 775
When it comes to IoT in the enterprise, namely the commercial building and hospitality markets, a benefit not getting the attention it deserves is energy efficiency, and IoT’s direct impact on a cleaner, greener environment when installed in smart buildings. Until now clean technology was offered piecemeal and led with point solutions that require significant systems integration to orchestrate and deploy. There didn't exist a 'top down' approach that can manage and monitor the way a Smart Buildi...
Jan. 30, 2016 03:45 PM EST Reads: 1,259