|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.
"ciqada is a combined platform of hardware modules and server products that lets people take their existing devices or new devices and lets them be accessible over the Internet for their users," noted Geoff Engelstein of ciqada, a division of Mars International, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City.
Jul. 8, 2015 02:15 AM EDT Reads: 532
"We have seen the evolution of WebRTC right from the starting point to what it has become today, that people are using in real applications," noted Dr. Natasha Tamaskar, Vice President and Head of Cloud and Mobile Strategy and Ecosystem at GENBAND, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at WebRTC Summit, held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City.
Jul. 7, 2015 10:15 PM EDT Reads: 597
The 3rd International WebRTC Summit, to be held Nov. 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, announces that its Call for Papers is now open. Topics include all aspects of improving IT delivery by eliminating waste through automated business models leveraging cloud technologies. WebRTC Summit is co-located with 15th International Cloud Expo, 6th International Big Data Expo, 3rd International DevOps Summit and 2nd Internet of @ThingsExpo. WebRTC (Web-based Real-Time Communication) is an open source project supported by Google, Mozilla and Opera that aims to enable bro...
Jul. 7, 2015 08:00 PM EDT Reads: 411
It is one thing to build single industrial IoT applications, but what will it take to build the Smart Cities and truly society-changing applications of the future? The technology won’t be the problem, it will be the number of parties that need to work together and be aligned in their motivation to succeed. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jason Mondanaro, Director, Product Management at Metanga, discussed how you can plan to cooperate, partner, and form lasting all-star teams to change the world and it starts with business models and monetization strategies.
Jul. 7, 2015 07:00 PM EDT Reads: 1,414
Internet of Things (IoT) will be a hybrid ecosystem of diverse devices and sensors collaborating with operational and enterprise systems to create the next big application. In their session at @ThingsExpo, Bramh Gupta, founder and CEO of robomq.io, and Fred Yatzeck, principal architect leading product development at robomq.io, discussed how choosing the right middleware and integration strategy from the get-go will enable IoT solution developers to adapt and grow with the industry, while at the same time reduce Time to Market (TTM) by using plug and play capabilities offered by a robust IoT ...
Jul. 7, 2015 07:00 PM EDT Reads: 1,310
The 4th International Internet of @ThingsExpo, co-located with the 17th International Cloud Expo - to be held November 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA - announces that its Call for Papers is open. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the biggest idea since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than
Jul. 7, 2015 05:00 PM EDT Reads: 1,225
SYS-CON Events announced today that ProfitBricks, the provider of painless cloud infrastructure, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. ProfitBricks is the IaaS provider that offers a painless cloud experience for all IT users, with no learning curve. ProfitBricks boasts flexible cloud servers and networking, an integrated Data Center Designer tool for visual control over the cloud and the best price/performance value available. ProfitBricks was named one of the coolest Clo...
Jul. 7, 2015 05:00 PM EDT Reads: 1,525
17th Cloud Expo, taking place Nov 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. Cloud computing is now being embraced by a majority of enterprises of all sizes. Yesterday's debate about public vs. private has transformed into the reality of hybrid cloud: a recent survey shows that 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud strategy. Meanwhile, 94% of enterprises are using some form of XaaS – software, platform, and infrastructure as a service.
Jul. 7, 2015 04:00 PM EDT Reads: 798
"In the IoT space we are helping customers, mostly enterprises and industry verticals where time-to-value is critical, and we help them with the ability to do faster insights and actions using our platform so they can transform their business operations," explained Venkat Eswara, VP of Marketing at Vitria, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City.
Jul. 7, 2015 03:45 PM EDT Reads: 514
Discussions about cloud computing are evolving into discussions about enterprise IT in general. As enterprises increasingly migrate toward their own unique clouds, new issues such as the use of containers and microservices emerge to keep things interesting. In this Power Panel at 16th Cloud Expo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists addressed the state of cloud computing today, and what enterprise IT professionals need to know about how the latest topics and trends affect their organization.
Jul. 7, 2015 03:30 PM EDT Reads: 675
WebRTC converts the entire network into a ubiquitous communications cloud thereby connecting anytime, anywhere through any point. In his session at WebRTC Summit,, Mark Castleman, EIR at Bell Labs and Head of Future X Labs, will discuss how the transformational nature of communications is achieved through the democratizing force of WebRTC. WebRTC is doing for voice what HTML did for web content.
Jul. 7, 2015 03:30 PM EDT Reads: 682
To many people, IoT is a buzzword whose value is not understood. Many people think IoT is all about wearables and home automation. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Mike Kavis, Vice President & Principal Cloud Architect at Cloud Technology Partners, discussed some incredible game-changing use cases and how they are transforming industries like agriculture, manufacturing, health care, and smart cities. He will discuss cool technologies like smart dust, robotics, smart labels, and much more. Prepare to be blown away with a glimpse of the future.
Jul. 7, 2015 02:15 PM EDT Reads: 907
Connected things, systems and people can provide information to other things, systems and people and initiate actions for each other that result in new service possibilities. By taking a look at the impact of Internet of Things when it transitions to a highly connected services marketplace we can understand how connecting the right “things” and leveraging the right partners can provide enormous impact to your business’ growth and success. In her general session at @ThingsExpo, Esmeralda Swartz, VP, Marketing Enterprise and Cloud at Ericsson, discussed how this exciting emergence of layers of...
Jul. 7, 2015 12:45 PM EDT Reads: 1,436
The 17th International Cloud Expo has announced that its Call for Papers is open. 17th International Cloud Expo, to be held November 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, brings together Cloud Computing, APM, APIs, Microservices, Security, Big Data, Internet of Things, DevOps and WebRTC to one location. With cloud computing driving a higher percentage of enterprise IT budgets every year, it becomes increasingly important to plant your flag in this fast-expanding business opportunity. Submit your speaking proposal today!
Jul. 7, 2015 12:30 PM EDT Reads: 845
The 5th International DevOps Summit, co-located with 17th International Cloud Expo – being held November 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA – announces that its Call for Papers is open. Born out of proven success in agile development, cloud computing, and process automation, DevOps is a macro trend you cannot afford to miss. From showcase success stories from early adopters and web-scale businesses, DevOps is expanding to organizations of all sizes, including the world's largest enterprises – and delivering real results. Among the proven benefits, DevOps is corr...
Jul. 7, 2015 12:15 PM EDT Reads: 919
With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing IoT strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @ThingsExpo in Silicon Valley. Learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is as "IoT-Ready" as it can be! Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place Nov 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 17th Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the most profound change in personal an...
Jul. 7, 2015 12:00 PM EDT Reads: 909
The Internet of Things is not only adding billions of sensors and billions of terabytes to the Internet. It is also forcing a fundamental change in the way we envision Information Technology. For the first time, more data is being created by devices at the edge of the Internet rather than from centralized systems. What does this mean for today's IT professional? In this Power Panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists addressed this very serious issue of profound change in the industry.
Jul. 7, 2015 12:00 PM EDT Reads: 759
SYS-CON Events announced today that kintone has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. kintone promotes cloud-based workgroup productivity, transparency and profitability with a seamless collaboration space, build your own business application (BYOA) platform, and workflow automation system.
Jul. 7, 2015 12:00 PM EDT Reads: 1,564
Buzzword alert: Microservices and IoT at a DevOps conference? What could possibly go wrong? In this Power Panel at DevOps Summit, moderated by Jason Bloomberg, the leading expert on architecting agility for the enterprise and president of Intellyx, panelists peeled away the buzz and discuss the important architectural principles behind implementing IoT solutions for the enterprise. As remote IoT devices and sensors become increasingly intelligent, they become part of our distributed cloud environment, and we must architect and code accordingly. At the very least, you'll have no problem fillin...
Jul. 7, 2015 11:45 AM EDT Reads: 1,957
Explosive growth in connected devices. Enormous amounts of data for collection and analysis. Critical use of data for split-second decision making and actionable information. All three are factors in making the Internet of Things a reality. Yet, any one factor would have an IT organization pondering its infrastructure strategy. How should your organization enhance its IT framework to enable an Internet of Things implementation? In his session at @ThingsExpo, James Kirkland, Red Hat's Chief Architect for the Internet of Things and Intelligent Systems, described how to revolutionize your archit...
Jul. 7, 2015 11:30 AM EDT Reads: 837