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Security (56)

 

 

What is Going on with Residential IoT

Cyber Security?

For sure you have heard about the recent DDoS attacks that occurred last October 21st on Dyn’s DNS service. The news broke out reporting that many well-known Internet services were not available. According to Hacker News Twitter, Etsy, Spotify and other sites were affected. Up to this point, there’s nothing new, just another DDoS attack. Large company outage means big news, but there is still a point that is key in this equation and that has not been addressed. 

  • Was Residential or Consumer IoT affected?

According to Dyn’s report, “the attack come from 100,000 malicious endpoints”. 

On the second last paragraph they quote: “Not only has it highlighted vulnerabilities in the security of “Internet of Things” (IOT) devices that need to be addressed, but it has also sparked further dialogue in the internet infrastructure community about the future of the internet.

Put both quotes together: 100,000 IoT devices have been Hacked. This is astonishing and outstanding!

There has been no news about how the 100,000 IoT device customers have been affected or supported:

  • Do they still have the Bot inside their device? 
  • Do the devices work correctly? 
  • Do they know they have been hacked? 
  • Do they know they are at risk? 
  • Will the Bots change and do other things? 
  • Will the Bots leave backdoors in their home networks?
  • How long will it take for another Bot to hack their IoT device?
  • What are Consumer Protection Agencies doing about this?
  • What are Governments doing?

This is no joke, we are talking about 100,000 devices (IoT Customers), and therefore, has to be addressed very seriously.

Dyn and the Internet community will address the issue. That’s fine! But how and when will they solve the Residential IoT vulnerability problem. Residential IoT needs to be Secured, Monitored and its software Updated. Enterprise IoT already contemplates this, but Residential IoT does not. Individual devices are sold with no security, and in the best case, if they are well developed and secured they still need to be monitored because software always has vulnerabilities, no matter how well and secure it has been developed.

All the questions, above cannot be solved using secure policies inside IoT or in the Internet itself. More has to be done! This is a Game Changer; Home Networks have to be monitored and secured to prevent Malware and Attacks. If not, the Internet will soon be like Hell.

The Residential IoT Avalanche

Gartner estimates that by 2020 there will be 25 billion IoT devices, of these, 13 billion will be Residential Home Devices, more than 50% of the total. Imagine if only 1% of these devices are vulnerable, there will be 13 million devices to hack.

  • Are the Internet Home Users aware of the risk they are taking?
  • Are their Home Networks and GateWays (GW/Router) secure?
  • Will the Internet itself be reliable and secure?

How to Secure Home Networks

Twenty years ago, Home Networks only had PCs, with well-developed software, for examples Windows, but many vulnerabilities were used to Hack Residential and Enterprise PCs. This problem brought up many Anti Malware (AM) Software Companies to safeguard Windows PCs. The same is happening right now with Residential IoT.

IoT devices don’t have the possibility or suppliers are not interested in incorporating AM software to their IoT. They are generally too small and only have specific dedicated software, i.e.: they cannot be easily protected with AM Software embedded in their devices:

  • This is a big problem. How can it be solved?
  • Where and how can AM software safeguard Home Networks, GWs and IoT?

Every Home Network connects to the Internet through the GW, which is the main door into our Home. As with Houses, shouldn’t an armored door be used to prevent thieves from coming in? The GW is the door to the Internet and it is also another device with CPU and Memory, a processing unit that can do the job. Why not use it to block hackers before they even get in? Thanks to FTTH and IoT itself, Gateways have become more powerful. If a GW does not have the power to cope with AM Security, then a security appliance should be connected to it. Using a secure GW, the entire Home Network will be protected from Malware and Attacks.

Many Security Providers and new startups have already foreseen the Secure GW solution.

Current Residential IoT/GW Security Innovation Trends

As described before, the most effective scenario to protect your Home IoT is to Safeguard the Home Network using the GW, this is currently being done with two innovative solutions:

Solution #1.              Attach a physical AM Security Appliance to the Home GW.

Solution #2.              Embedding AM Security software directly into the Home GW.

Solution #1 Is an interesting and effective approach, another device with more CPU and Memory means more processing power, but it adds another gadget to the end-user and it has to be physically connect to the Home GW’s 1Gbit Port.

The Pros: The Appliance adds an extra device to manage security, leaving the GW as it is. The customers will manage alerts and/or security configurations through a simple app on their smartphones. 

The Cons: All the traffic will bypass the appliance through a 1Gbit port, which needs a cable connected to the GW. Customers want to reduce physical gadgets, they already have many, such as the GW itself, IPTV DVB Decoder, the ONT, Game Station, Printers, cables, etc. Another device is not a bad solution but the current trend is to reduce home devices and cables, this solution will work but in a few years Solution #2 will make Solution #1 obsolete.

Solution #2. The Security Software will come within the GW device or it will remotely be installed.

The Pros: The customer will only manage alerts and/or security configurations, with a simple mobile app, that’s all. Simple, no physical appliance, no wires. 

The Cons: Many of the current GW hardware devices don’t have sufficient physical CPU and/or Memory capacity to manage security software, but with the FTTH and the IoT boom, Gateways are becoming more and more powerful and in a few years, most of them, if not all, will have the power to manage AM software.

Make it Simple, Intelligent and Economically Viable for Retail

Both solutions have their pros and cons, and both should, at least, address basic security surveillance. There are many threats that can be addressed using Cloud Intelligent Processing, analyzing Home Network Metadata (GW CPU will be liberated from many security tasks). But, most important of all is the combined Residential Cloud Intelligence, for example; if a new threat is detected and blocked on a provider’s vulnerable IoT device, the solution will automatically be propagated to all of the security providers’ customers, avoiding mass propagation and hacking damage. 

Residential Device “Internet Use Patterns” will be supervised and any mismatch will be reported to the customer or automatically be blocked if a malicious attacker is detected.

Customers don’t or cannot give proper maintenance to their Home IoT. The solution should or will control possible problems like vulnerable firmware, recommend changing easy or default passwords, block dangerous port access, grant or deny access, etc. Most of these simple actions will be prompted on the users’ smartphone, and the problem will easily be solved using a simple one click menu.

And finally, and probably most important, customers don’t want and can’t pay for a highly sophisticated solution. A next generation firewall type solution is way out of scope and expensive, the solution has to be smart and economically viable or sales will draw back.

There is no need to drill down into what can be done and what cannot, both solutions are effective. Solution #1 is good but #2 is in the core of the Home Network, the GW, and simpler for the end user, but it may take some time before all the GWs have sufficient power and capacity. 

Conclusions

  • There are millions of Residential IoT Devices being hacked, but most users are unaware and the press doesn’t really talk about it.
  • Residential IoT is in general insecure and with the predicted IoT Avalanche, hackers will take advantage of the situation to make the Internet be like Hell.
  • Residential IoT must be Secured, Monitored and its software Updated using the Home GW Router.
  • Make it Simple, Intelligent and Economically Viable for Retail.
  • IoT Residential Customers must be 100% aware of the Security risks, this must be strongly driven by Consumer Agencies, Governments, The Press, IoT Suppliers and Security Vendors.

If the security actions described in this publication are not addressed correctly, the Internet and all of us will have to learn the hard way. 

Juan Mora Zamorano

Independent Security Contractor

https://es.linkedin.com/in/morajuan

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Securing the Internet of Everything

The introduction of connected devices is complicating an already incredibly complex security environment for infosec professionals. In just two decades, the enterprise has gone from a controlled scenario of one device per user to a situation in which users may have five or more devices connected to sensitive systems and applications. As the IoT becomes more popular it will soon be impossible to quantify just how many internet-enabled, vulnerable points exist within an organization. So what can companies do to secure the IoT?
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How to secure your smarthome gadgets

By Ben Dickson. This article originally appeared here.

The holiday season is a big time for consumer electronics and smarthome gadget sales. With so many advances and innovations that we saw in the Internet of Things in 2016, there’s a likely chance that one of those connected devices has found its way into your home, or that of one of your loved ones, this Christmas.

But while IoT devices make our homes more efficient, drive energy saving and reduce costs, you should also take note that IoT devices are a source of security headaches. A huge number of smarthome gadgets are developed without sound development practices and end up being used for evil purposes.

So if you don’t want your smarthome gadgets to be used to spy on you, hurt you in some other way, or be used in the next massive IoT DDoS attack, take a minute to read these guidelines. They will help you get the most out of what your IoT devices have to offer without suffering the privacy and security repercussions.

Install the latest updates

Seldom you see a software or hardware released without glitches or bugs. Many of these loopholes leave your devices open to attacks and exploits. That’s why developers and manufacturers regularly roll out updates and security fixes.

First of all, before installing your new device, do a little internet research for known vulnerabilities, and make sure that the manufacturer has released a patch for the bug (patches are announced and delivered on the manufacturer’s website).

Make sure that the manufacturer has a policy and good track record of delivering updates. If a manufacturer doesn’t deliver security patches, I would recommend returning the gadget back to where you bought it from.

In some cases, there are workarounds that can help you plug a security gap by disabling some of the features or changing settings, but do it with caution.

Last word on updates: Since smarthome gadgets are usually installed and forgotten, register your device for update notifications in case the manufacturer does have such an option. This way, you can make sure that you don’t miss any important updates.

Protect your network from IoT hacks

Per se, connected devices such as light bulbs and coffeemakers might not contain sensitive information or functionality, but their vulnerabilities can provide attackers with potential footholds into your home network, giving them a beachhead to conduct more critical attacks against your laptop or workstation.

The first thing you should do is to change factory default settings (e.g. administrative passwords) on your devices after installing them. This is critical as many attacks are conducted by scanning the web for devices for unchanged factory settings.

Also make sure you don’t reuse a password you’ve set on a critical email or social media account, unless you want a breach to propagate to unwanted domains.

If your device offers several different connection channels, disable the ones you’re not using, and always prefer wired connections over WiFi and other wireless mediums. This will minimize the attack surface. If the device is associated with a mobile app, review the privileges it requires (microphone, camera, GPS access, etc.) and only grant permissions if it is absolutely necessary.

If you’re going away for a long time (vacation, business trip, etc.), make sure to turn off unneeded devices or at least disconnect them from the internet.

Last word on network protection: If your home router has a guest network option, you can use it to isolate your IoT devices from your local network. This will prevent breached gadgets from giving attackers network access to your laptop and other devices containing personal and sensitive information.

Protect your IoT devices from hackers

In the previous step, we discussed how to prevent IoT vulnerabilities from harming your network. But you should also protect your smarthome gadgets themselves. Some devices such as smart thermostats can deal real damage if hacked, while nearly all compromised IoT devices can be used to raise botnets and stage widespread DDoS attacks.

Unfortunately, a considerable percentage of IoT devices lack proper defense measures (and will continue to miss them for some time to come), therefore the first order of business should be to set up a firewall.

Most home routers have firewall rules and settings that can be easily set up to block access through unused ports. This can help prevent access to devices that don’t let you turn off unwanted remote access features.

To add an extra measure of defense, use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to encrypt your outgoing and incoming traffic. The advantages of using VPNs is twofold. First, it’ll make up for lack of encryption in IoT devices. And second, it can make it more challenging for eavesdroppers to deduce life patterns from analyzing network traffic metadata.

Last word on device protection: You might want to consider investing in a smarthome intrusion detector, a breed of devices that analyze your home network’s traffic and look for patterns of malicious activities.

Protect your privacy

Most home IoT devices silently collect data about your daily routines and habits and often send them over to the cloud. While this helps devices and their manufacturers to analyze patterns and deliver better services, it can also become the source of privacy controversies.

First of all, you should clearly know how your data is used and processed before you connect any new device to the internet. Review the vendor’s data collection and sharing policies and make sure it explicitly states whether your data will be shared with third parties or not. There should also be an opt-out option for users who don’t want to have their data collected.

Also, if your device has a microphone or camera component and you’re not using it, disable it outright, because they can lead to some of the worst kind of privacy troubles. If there’s no switch or feature to turn off the camera, cover it or turn it to face the wall.

Last word on privacy: If you decide to sell your device or give it away to someone else, reset it to factory default settings and wipe out any user data you might have stored on it.

Over to you

IoT is the future. But it shouldn’t cost you your privacy and security. Hopefully, with these tips, you’ll be better positioned to make good and safe use of your smarthome gadgets while avoiding the pitfalls and unwelcomed tradeoffs.

How do you vet and secure your devices? Share with us in the comments section.

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Securing IoT Consumer Devices

As consumer electronics manufacturers release new gadgets for the holidays, security is likely to be the last thing on people's minds. Devices like Apple’s HomeKit turn your iPhone or iPad into a remote control for lights, locks, the thermostat, window shades and even your doorbell, making typical iOS functions like Siri voice-based extensions of controlling a smart home.

Yet even if most electronics on a home network employ top security standards, all it takes is a faulty webcam for an attack to happen.

We just saw this with internet infrastructure company Dyn in late October. Mirai malware took advantage of default, easy-to-guess passwords on the webcams of unsuspecting consumers, leading to a massive Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack temporarily shutting down popular sites like Twitter and PayPal.

Along with Apple’s Authentication Coprocessor, HomeKit’s end-to-end encryption helps mitigate the risk of hacking. The coprocessor only sends a certificate that allows an iOS device to unlock an accessory (like your home’s light dimmers, thermostat and power meter) after the accessory completes a challenge sent by the iOS device. Any Internet of Things device that connects to this network, however, may not have the same robustness rules in place.

According to the IoT graphic from Arxan below, the number of devices connected to the internet reached 6.4 billion in 2016. Thus, in-home communication network security is only half the battle for consumers, as the cars they drive are increasingly becoming connected as well. Car manufacturers have different OEMs when it comes to displays and in-vehicle digital storage, meaning that all devices in a connected car may not use end-to-end encryption. Code scanners can interrupt critical functions and if you look further into automotive IoT security you’ll find that many parts of a vehicle that have been around for years--like the OBD2 port for engine diagnostics and on-board computers--could potentially be decrypted and injected with malware.

 

 

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12 Steps to Stop the Next IoT Attack in its Tracks

The recent distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) IoT attack against DNS is a wake up call to how fragile the Internet can be.

The IoT attack against Domain Name Servers from a botnet of thousands of devices means it’s way past time to take IoT security seriously. The bad actors around the world who previously used PCs, servers and smartphones to carry out attacks have now set their sights on the growing tidal wave of IoT devices. It’s time for consumers and enterprises to protect themselves and others by locking down their devices, gateways and platforms. While staying secure is a never-ending journey, here’s a list of twelve actions you can take to get started:

  1. Change the default usernames and passwords on your IoT devices and edge gateways to something strong.
  2. Device telemetry connections must be outbound-only. Never listen for incoming commands or you’ll get hacked.
  3. Devices should support secure boot with cryptographically signed code by the manufacturer to ensure firmware is unaltered.
  4. Devices must have enough compute power and RAM to create a transport layer security (TLS) tunnel to secure data in transit.
  5. Use devices and edge gateways that include a Trusted Platform Module (TPM) chip to securely store keys, connection strings and passwords in hardware.
  6. IoT platforms must maintain a list of authorized devices, edge gateways, associated keys and expiration dates/times to authenticate each device.
  7. The telemetry ingestion component of IoT platforms must limit IP address ranges to just those used by managed devices and edge gateways.
  8. Since embedded IoT devices and edge gateways are only secure at a single point in time, IoT platforms must be able to remotely update their firmware to keep them secure.
  9. When telemetry arrives in an IoT platform, the queue, bus or storage where data comes to rest must be encrypted.
  10. Devices and edge gateways managed by an IoT platform must update/rotate their security access tokens prior to expiration.
  11. Field gateways in the fog layer must authenticate connected IoT devices, encrypt their data at rest and then authenticate with upstream IoT platforms.
  12. IoT platforms must authenticate each device sending telemetry and blacklist compromised devices to prevent attacks.

Keeping the various components that make up the IoT value chain secure requires constant vigilance. In addition to doing your part, it’s important to hold the vendors of the IoT devices, gateways and platforms accountable for delivering technology that’s secure today and in the future.

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The Emerging IoT Nightmare: Smart Dust

By Mike Krygeris, Sr. Field Engineer at Plixer International

Internet connected thermostats, refrigerators, pet feeders, cameras, DVRs, etc. are all part of the Internet of Things (IoT).  Numerous articles have been written detailing how these devices are being hacked and used for nefarious purposes like hosting illegal web sites to sell contraband, exfiltrating data from other devices and even participating in DDoS attacks.  This information is all true and concerning, however there is something on the horizon that is potentially far more menacing called Smart Dust.

Gartner forecasting that the “connected things” market will grow from 6.4 billion devices in 2016 to 20.8 billion by 2020, this will be the driver pushing DDoS to a double digit growth in 2017.

Smart Dust

Smart Dust is the term used to describe very small chips containing a system of tiny microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) such as sensors, robots, or other devices that can, for example, transmit temperature, vibration, GPS coordinates and more.  Imagine attaching a small sticker of Smart Dust to every package shipped by UPS, FEDEX and US mail. These devices allow the consumer or the shipping company to track everywhere the package goes, measure the temperature, see if it is opened or dropped on the floor. Just add the Smart Dust chip to the shipping label, scan the hardware ID (I.e. IPv6 address) with a mobile application and track it on-line.  

Bridges and buildings could contain sensors to help more accurately monitor wear and tear or even double in functionality to provide weather details to an entire industry of meteorologists. If a company has a problem with staplers disappearing from employee desks, just attach a piece of Smart Dust and start tracking them… “I believe you have my stapler.” Take a look at this article and it might change your idea of what IOT will be in 5-10 years.

Smart Dust Internet Connectivity

IOT vendors will have very specific machine to machine (M2M) communication scenarios.  Unlike our mobile phones, customers won’t be providing the internet access for a lot of these devices. It will just be there. This type of communication is already in place in a few cities. The first being Amsterdam.

SIGFOX is one type of low bandwidth IoT communication technology.  Other low bandwidth IoT technologies include LORA and 6LoWPAN, and they   T all operate at layer2 to communicate directly with the internet. Although each MEMS can only communicate at speeds comparable to a modem, and as an aggregate, there is strength in numbers.

Powering Smart Dust

Today, Low Power Wide Area Network (LORA) radios can be powered for a few years with  just a CR2032 battery but, what about when science develops a way to “harvest” ambient energy to power electronics?  At that point, Smart Dust (MEMS) will never power down leaving the potential for a massive number of micro-computing devices remaining on-line indefinitely.  

Internet of Zombies

To date, public discourse on Smart Dust has not included details around the identity, ownership and security of these devices. These are important topics that will need to be considered.

How do you deal with this type of IoT device if it were to become compromised by a hacker? Would UPS or FEDEX be responsible for millions of infected MEMS participating in DDoS attacks while they sit in landfills all over the world?  Without a definitive end-of-life after their use, these objects could stay connected to the Internet forever!  Without ownership and responsibility, some Smart Dust won’t be decommissioned properly and could end up as the Internet of Zombies, essentially becoming the trash on the side of the information superhighway. 

Embedding security and defining end-of-life processes would add cost into the creation of MEMS, which is the reason it will likely not happen on its own.   For current examples, you need only look to the IoT devices currently being compromised by the Mirai Botnet. There is simply little incentive for manufacturers to create strong security and identity management on IoT devices because it slows time-to-market and increases production cost.

The Future of Smart Dust

Today’s IoT still plays by the rules of perimeter security, ownership and a infrastructure management. The IoT of tomorrow will be much more like the meatspace  of today and we need to plan for it accordingly. Smart Dust technology already exists and is likely being implemented without careful consideration to security.  

A parallel internet meant just for IoT and Space Dust, and bound by a different set of rules, may be the safest way forward. This internet’s control plane might leverage a software defined network (SDN) approach with an open and decentralized traffic-forwarding paradigm similar to BGP. LISP for example, comes to mind as it can provide a standards based location while offering an independent network fully gated from the regular internet.  MEMS manufacturers could consider defining a shelf life, similar to that of a gallon of milk.  After a given time frame, the MEMS will simply stop working.

Monitoring systems will need to be put in place, such as those that consume NetFlow and IPFIX, to help service providers keep an eye on the traffic generated by these devices.  These monitoring systems will measure the volume and traffic types generated by MEMS and will provide forensic data for the investigation of malicious and unwanted activity.    

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Bruce Schneier, cybersecurity expert, cryptologist

By Ben Dickson. This article originally appeared here. 

As if I haven’t said it a million times, IoT security is critical.

But just when I thought I had it all figured out, somebody comes along and sheds new light on this very important topic in a different way.

At a November 16 hearing held by the Congress Committee on Energy and Commerce in light of the devastating October 21 Dyn DDoS attack, famous cryptologist and computer security expert Bruce Schneier offered a new perspective on IoT security, which makes it easier for everyone to understand the criticality of the issue.

After watching it at least three times, I decided to share the main concepts with the readers of TechTalks. Here are the key takeaways, which I’ve taken the pain to elaborate on.

Everything is now a computer

“Everything is now a computer,” Schneier said at the beginning of his remarks, after which he gave examples about how our phones, refrigerators, ATM machines and cars have in essence become computers that perform functions in the physical world.

“And this is the Internet of Things, and this is what caused the DDoS attack we’re talking about,” he continued.

IoT devices are much more different from objects with a little silicon and electronics baked in. We’re talking about devices that are sometimes running fully functional operating systems and are enjoying broadband internet connections.

And as we all know, computers are smart—but they’re also hackable.

So what it comes down to is that soon, everything around you, from your toaster to your lawn mowing machine, fridge, light bulb and door lock can be hacked and used directly (against you) or indirectly (against others) for evil purposes.

And then Schneier went on to “give four truths” from the world of computer security—which he extended to “everything security”—that apply to everything.

Attack is easier than defense

This was Schneier’s first premise. As the saying goes in cybersecurity jargon “cybersecurity experts have to win every battle. Hackers only have to win once.”

But it was his next phrase that said it all.

“Complexity is the worse enemy of security,” he said. “And this is especially true for computers and the internet.”

Attackers find methods to use software and operating systems in malicious ways that were never imagined by their developers. This is partly due to security flaws found in the source code or the simple fact that the basic functionalities embedded in those software can be combined in innumerable ways.

Even highly secure operating systems such as the Apple iOS tend to spit out vulnerabilities every once in a while.

So said in another way, you have to plug every security hole—hackers only have to find one.

Interconnections introduce new vulnerabilities

This is an extension of the complexity concept.

“The more we connect things to each other,” Schneier said, “the more vulnerabilities in one thing affect other things.”

And he went on to give accounts of some of the cyberattacks that made their fame in recent years, including the Target hack, and of course the Dyn attack, in which the hackers exploited vulnerabilities in several systems to stage their attack.

“Vulnerabilities like this are hard to fix because no one system might be at fault,” Schneier explained.

In many cases a flaw in one system might not be critical per se, but when that system or component is combined or connected to another one, the same vulnerability might open up new ways to cause harm.

Many IoT manufacturers embed third party components into their products that are inherently insecure, and they don’t even know about it. I know of at least one Chinese company that was offering vulnerable white label DVRs and components to other companies, whose products were involved in the Dyn DDoS attack. Good luck recovering all those tens of thousands of devices.

And we’re entering a world where abstraction is playing an increasingly important role in creating software and hardware. Blackbox systems connect over the internet and allow access to their data and functionality without having full knowledge of their vulnerabilities.

The internet empowers attackers

“The internet is a massive tool for making things efficient,” Schneier said, “and that’s also true for attacking. The internet allows attacks to scale to a degree that’s impossible otherwise”

The Internet of Things has taken that scaling power to the next level. It was true for the Dyn attack, as well as a host of other recent DDoS attacks that were based on IoT botnets.

In terms of efficiency, Schneier underlined the fact that hackers have an easier time sharing their knowledge and experience thanks to the internet. The source code for the Mirai botnet, which was used to stage the Dyn attack, has been released and is now available for all to use.

And for those who don’t have the knowledge to make use of the source code and create their own IoT botnet, they can rent one at an affordable price. “I don’t recommend it,” Schneier said.

The for-rent cybercrime business model is gaining traction. Recently, hackers put up a ransomware-as-a-service platform to allow wannabe hackers to cash-in on cyber extortion.

“This is more dangerous as our systems get more critical,” Schneier said next. “The Internet of Things affects the world in a direct and physical manner.”

This is something that I’ve been saying a lot. It’s one thing to lose access to your favorite website, lose online documents or even have your most intimate secrets doxed. But it’s another thing altogether where your very life and health are concerned and can becompromised from thousands of miles away.

And that’s what the Internet of Insecure Things is leading us.

Schneier: “There’s real risk to life and property. There’s real catastrophic risks.”

The economics don’t trickle down

“Our computers are secure for a bunch of reasons,” Schneier said—and that’s relatively speaking (my own comment). “But it doesn’t happen for these cheaper devices.”

There are many reasons that IoT devices are created with less security. Schneier named a few:

  • Low profit margins: Manufacturers are doing their best to lower the costs, and therefore pack the devices with cheaper and less secure components, and firmware and low-end operating systems that can’t run security software.
  • IoT devices are offshore: Many devices are treated in an install-and-forget manner. How many times do you check the logs for your thermostat? Also, no sane person leaves their desktop computer or smartphone in an unprotected environment. But IoT devices are made to be installed in the open and left unattended. And yet in many cases, these same devices sport storage and computation capabilities that rival those of mobile and desktop computers, to say nothing of their broadband internet connections.
  • No dedicated security teams: Many of the manufacturing companies don’t allocate resources and funds to securing their devices, because as some will honestly admit, “Consumers don’t pay for security. They pay for functionality.” And vetting code and hardware for security can be costly. Also, we’re in the “Gold Rush” phase of the IoT industry’s development, where every new kid on the block is in a hurry to ship a connected device to the market before their competitors do, so naturally, things such as security take a backstage seat.
  • Devices can’t be patched: Desktop and mobile operating systems are regularly updated and patched to fix security holes. The same can’t be said about IoT devices. In many cases, the mechanism is nonexistent, while in others, it’s so arduous that consumer will simply forego applying them. And let’s not forget that these are install-and-forget products. And as Schneir reminded in his remarks, many of these “things” such as fridges and cars will not be replaced for a long time—some, never. This means they’ll remain vulnerable for the rest of their lives, causing potential damage to their owners and others.

What needs to be done?

“The government has to get involved,” Schneier said. “What I need are some good regulations.”

I agree, but I would also extend the point and say “Everyone has to get involved,” and that includes manufacturers, who should get serious about securing their devices, or suffer the consequences. It also concerns ISPs, who should do more to spot and block botnet traffic. And consumers should become more savvy on cybersecurity in general and demand more security from manufacturers.

But of course, the government has to play a regulatory role that will ensure implementation.

“For the first time, the internet affects the world in a direct, physical manner,” Schneier said. “When it didn’t matter—when it was Facebook, when it was Twitter, when it was email—it was OK to let programmers, to give them the special right to code the world as they saw fit. We were able to do that. But now that it’s the world of dangerous things… maybe we can’t do that anymore.”

I liked that phrase, and I think we ought take it seriously.

Watch the full hearing here:

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How to avoid that a handful of companies can dominate IoT

Possibly be the US technology companies the most commonly use the word “democratization” as a marketing and sales argument. Influenced perhaps by the famous quote of President Abraham Lincoln "Democracy is the Government of the people, by the people, for the people”, US Tech companies have been abusing of the term to sell more. I wondering if their intentions are closest to the no less famous Oscar Wilde´s sentence “Democracy means simply the bludgeoning of the people by the people for the people.”

Democratization of technology refers to the process by which access to technology rapidly continues to become more accessible to more people. Thomas Friedman argued that the era of globalization has been characterized by the democratization of technology, democratization of finance, and democratization of information. Technology has been critical, facilitating the rapid expansion of access to specialized knowledge and tools, as well as changing the way that people view and demand such access.

Nowadays, with the combination of Cloud Computing, Big Data Analytics, and the Internet of Things (IoT), the promise of democratization of technology for all companies, not only the big ones, and government and citizens looks like more feasible.

It's no wonder, given my long career, which I have had to evangelize many times in front of customers and partners the idea of democratization of technology, an idea that has always fascinated and motivated me. Now I am doing the same for the “Internet of Things”.

The journey towards the Democratizing the Internet of Things

For companies like Inex Advisors, ”Data Democratization Migrates From Aspirational to Empirical With the Internet of Things”.   Most consider that democratizing the IoT will come by leveraging the sensor data wave and using that data to create solutions (IoT Platforms and Application Vendors), but for other democratic IoT technology should make it easy for users to build connections (Connectivity vendors).

One of the companies most active in Internet of Things, PTC, has used the concept Democratizing the IoT during LiveWorx event last July,2016. “I think what we’re most excited about is the opportunity to democratize IoT…making [solutions] really fast and really easy,” said Rob Gremley, Group President of Technology Platforms at PTC. The same company that is aimed to 'Democratize' Augmented Reality.

At Microsoft Ignite, Satya Nadella the former and prudent CEO of Microsoft outlined the 4 pillars for democratizing AI, and so on and so forth.

But, democratizing the Internet of Things is not just technology, is to ease new business model, is enabling sharing economy, is providing power to ordinary citizens, is provide a level playing field where small business owners can compete with large enterprises, is collaboration between humans and machines. The journey just started.

We need to fight to achieve and maintain the Internet of Things open, innovative, and free.

Democratizing Smart Cities through the Internet of Things

The most important thing about smart cities is not the technology—it is their effect on democracy. When we hear that smart cities can improve citizens’ quality of life, we want they give us the power to make decisions. For instance, if cities can monitor air pollution cost-effectively, as citizens we can play a role in making decisions based on that data.

The process of integrating data into decision making can also make cities more rational. Right now, our cities are too political and, very often, mayors don’t think long-term. They just worry how an investment will affect them or the next mayor.

While the design of smart city ICT systems of today is still largely focused on passive sensing, the emergence of mobile crowd-sensing calls for more active citizen engagement in not only understanding but also shaping of our societies. For instance, the Urban Civics Internet of Things (IoT) middleware enables such involvement while effectively closing several feedback loops by including citizens in the decision-making process thus leading to smarter and healthier societies.

Data assimilation, actuation and citizen engagement are key enablers toward democratization of urban data, longer-term transparency, and accountability of urban development policies. All of these are building blocks of future smart cities and societies.

Democratization of Water Data through the Internet of Things

The "democratization of water data" is not only timely but essential if we are to move from 19th century water policies and 20th century infrastructure to 21st century solutions.

We are still challenged to deliver safe drinking water to everyone. A few statistics frame the challenge: globally, 884 million people worldwide don’t have regular access to safe drinking water; 2.4 billion people lack improved sanitation facilities resulting in about 842,000 deaths per year, of which 361,000 are children under age 5.

Will Sarni, Director and Practice Leader, Water Strategy at Deloitte Consulting, consider that “Now it's time to democratize water data and IoT can help by allowing everyone had access to water quantity and quality data on a real-time or near-real-time basis, driving innovation and allowing collaboration between Public sector, civil society, investors, cross industry collaborations, Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and Entrepreneurs.

“IoT will move us towards the goal of universal access to water data to accelerate solutions to universal and equitable access to water.”

Democratization of Farming through the Internet of Things

With cheap sensors now allowing us to connect to and understand the physical world in a way that’s been impossible on such a scale previously, we are seeing how the democratization of farming is coming, and the Internet of Things promises a revolution or reformation potentially larger than the internet revolution of the late 1990s.

Lance Donny – CEO of agtech startup OnFarm Systems – is one of a handful of innovators who have highlighted the potential for, as he calls it, Ag 3.0, a data-rich approach to farming that utilizes inputs from diverse sources – sensors on plants and farm equipment, weather stations and satellite images – to make better farming decisions

In this interesting article, Lance considers that the Internet of Things will be key in the democratization of farming because it offers the promise that some of the specialized knowledge that commercial farming requires today will be available to all, regardless of their farming prowess or economic situation.

Democratization of Healthcare through the Internet of Things

Beyond the trendiest fitness consumer gadgets, there’s a more significant healthcare revolution emerging right now at the convergence of affordable devices and tech and widespread broadband network connectivity. The Internet of Thing health revolution, will empower developing nations with more affordable, accurate and accessible healthcare than ever before, but also must allow the developed nations to guarantee better healthcare for all citizens.

Healthcare have a long way to go to prepare an infrastructure that could actually make use of the enormous amount of data that will be available, but many barriers like local policies should be removed, Implementation of IoT in healthcare can be expected to be slow and painful.

Democratization of Industries like Retail through the Internet of Things

With seemingly unlimited access, knowledge and power, connected consumers dictate and control the terms of retailer engagement. In this distributed, disruptive and democratized operating environment, retailers must effectively extend their unique brand experience beyond their physical and virtual four walls to wherever and whenever consumers demand.

Can the Internet of Things be democratized?

In the last three years, we have seen IoT escalate into the peak of the Gartner Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies, and American Tech Giant companies have been quick to take advantage of their leading positions in the digital world to rush into the IoT. The IoT promises a profound impact on individuals and society and none of Tech Giant companies and Old Industrial firms, with power and influence do not want to be out.

Can we avoid that a handful of American companies can dominate the Internet of Things?.

Until now despite the regulation it has been impossible prevent a few companies have dominated information technologies and later the Internet and Social Networks. Looks like that it is impossible compete against their price wars and its ability to attract talent or acquisitions of Start ups. 

The only serious challenge to U.S. domination comes from China where the government has invested heavily in Internet of Things technologies and made them a part of its overall policy and planning.

Why IoT need to be democratized? - The Risk of Surveillance states

“Talking about IoT sounds futuristic. And depending on your point of view either dystopian or utopian.”

The recent largest DDoS attack ever delivered by botnet of hijacked IoT devices reinforces the ideas and recommendations expressed in my post “Do not stop asking for security in IoT” . Even with the current limited state of connectivity, similar incidents will be a regular feature of the emerging Internet of Things and even supporters worry that security issues may slow its development. Similarly, privacy and security concerns rise exponentially as greater connectivity increases opportunities for technical breakdowns and criminal hacking. One tech journalist referred to the IoT as “the greatest mass surveillance infrastructure ever”.

How can avoid that data-hungry businesses and governments collect data on the behaviour of people and the performance of objects. These offer opportunities for an enormous expansion in both surveillance capitalism and the surveillance state, with businesses refining targeted advertising and product development well beyond the crude systems that even today’s Internet makes possible, and governments deepening tracking and control of citizen behaviour and attitudes. 

Consider the commercial benefits to insurance companies that will be able to continuously monitor the health of customers, their driving habits and the state of their homes; or to governments that can adjust benefits and other services based on citizen behaviour registered in their actions, as well as their interactions with one another, and with the things that fill their lives.  Scare isn’t.

Read more at: https://www.policyalternatives.ca/publications/monitor/can-internet-things-be-democratized

Will Blockchain be the solution?.  Maybe, but at least we need to convince ourselves and persuade others not to allow our personal data from falling into the hands of a few BIG companies and surveillance states.

The impact of IoT on jobs

It is a topic that fascinates me. I have written several posts “Will Machines replace our White Collar Jobs?” , and be assured that I will continue writing.

Why democratizing IoT is essential for its survival

In this interesting post, Ryan Lester (Director of IoT Strategy, Xively by LogMeIn) alerts that IoT feels only achievable to those companies with unlimited resources to make it happen. 

We can not afford to leave out of the IoT revolution 90% of the companies out there. I agree with Ryan that in order to deliver on the true promise of IoT, “It’s up to the vendor community to democratize IoT and make it more available and accessible to companies of all sizes.”

Thanks in advance for your Likes and Shares

Thoughts ? Comments ?

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How the IoT industry will self-regulate its security

iot security

Guest post by Ben Dickson. This article originally appeared here.

Following last week’s DDoS attack against Dyn, which was carried out through a huge IoT botnet, there’s a general sense of worry about IoT security—or rather insecurity—destabilizing the internet or bringing it to a total collapse.

All sorts of apocalyptic and dystopian scenarios are being spinned out by different writers (including myself) about how IoT security is running out of hand and turning into an uncontrollable problem. There are fears that DDoS attacks will continue to rise in number and magnitude; large portions of internet-connected devices will fall within the control of APT and hacker groups, and they will censor what suits them and bring down sites that are against their interests. The internet will lose its fundamental value. We will recede to the dark ages of pre-internet.

That might be stretching it a bit, but the idea is that at the moment, IoT botnets are one of the biggest threats to internet stability, and there seems to be no stopping their growth because neither manufacturers nor consumers are concerned with IoT security, and as a result millions of new vulnerable devices are plugged into the internet every day, providing botlords with fresh new conscripts for their zombie armies.

But the silver lining in the entire Dyn episode is that it has served as a wakeup call for companies developing IoT solutions. Shortly after the attack, news broke that hacked products belonging to a certain Chinese electronics component manufacturer were the main culprit behind the Mirai botnet that launched the attack.

The company was forced to recall its products in order to patch them or replace them, which is pretty challenging because it develops and sells white-label products, which means many of its customers might not even know they are using its components. And there will always be some residual damage, as it’s virtually impossible to recall all devices, which means some will still roam across the internet with old vulnerabilities remaining.

Aside from the financial damage and the costs incurred from the recall and replacement, the company has suffered a huge blow to its reputation, and will have to try hard to regain the lost trust of its current and future customers.

This will serve as a warning to other companies that are in a hurry to avoid missing their share of a market slated to grow multi-trillion dollars in the next years, and are shipping out products without testing and vetting them for proper security and reliability. They will finally come to realize that it is within their long term interests to include security as part of the development process, rather than approaching it as an afterthought and focusing on the fast shipment of their products.

Many companies don’t even have the in-house expertise and knowhow of dealing with security issues in connected environments. They’ll have to either acquire the talent or outsource their security procedures. But it’s not something they can do without if they wish to survive the trials that await them.

They will also become more wary of the third party components they integrate into their products. As a result, component makers—like the one that was exposed after the Dyn attack—will also have to be more careful about what they’re selling to their customers.

And they’ll have to provision for the day security flaws surface in their products. Many IoT devices don’t have any means for updates and patch installation. In order to avoid the time-consuming and costly process of recalling products, manufacturers will have to embed over-the-air and online updating mechanisms, which will also make it easier for consumers to keep their devices up to date with the latest patches.

The overall result will likely be a slowdown of the IoT gold rush, which is a good thing. Newcomers as well as veterans will have more time to think meticulously on the design of their products and put more energy into securing their devices and preparing them for future developments and changes. Improved resilience and flexibility will be a positive byproduct of the process.

All in all, although the Friday’s attack was painful, it will help mature the IoT industry. From now on, manufacturers will either have to bake-in security into their products, or will have to wait for a security disaster to force them to either go out of business or fix their mess. Any rational mind will choose the former.

So things are not as bad as they seem. This is what I call the self-regulation of the IoT industry. Wonderful, isn’t it?

FEATURED IMAGE: SAVASYLAN/SHUTTERSTOCK

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The Internet of Evil Things

The Seventh Seal (1957)

Guest post by Joe Barkai. Original story appeared here

How Secure is the Internet of Things?

You may have heard me at a conference or read my response to questions concerning the security of the Internet of Things. When asked, I sometimes “refuse” to answer this question. This is not because I do not think that data security—and the closely-related data privacy—are not important; of course they are.  But I want to highlight the point that data security and privacy are foundational issues that are not unique to IoT devices. Every enterprise must ensure that all data—IoT generated or not—is secured and that data privacy and ownership are handled properly.

But in light of the recent highly-publicized cyberattacks, and a session with Chris Valasek (who is best known for wirelessly hacking a Jeep wrangler) and Mark Weatherford (past deputy Undersecretary for Cybersecurity at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security), I thought I should provide a brief update.

CCTV Bots Attack the Internet

On October 21, a massive, highly-distributed cyberattack, involving millions of IP addresses and a malicious software, crippled web servers across the U.S., temporarily shutting down DNS services and rendering major Internet sites inaccessible.

Distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) are not new. But according to web security firm Sucury, this was the first time it had observed an attack powered solely by hacked CCTV devices. The company discovered attackers have compromised more than 25,000 digital video recorders and CCTV cameras, and are using them to launch DDoS attacks against websites.

Taxonomy of IoT Devices

Internet-connected devices, such as the CCTV devices involved in the DDoS cyberattack, are getting cheaper and more powerful. This trend inspires conceptual architectures that place smart, connected devices at the edge of the IoT network.

There are some perfectly good arguments as to why sophisticated devices with autonomous decision authority should reside at the edge of the network. For instance, moving decision-making devices closer to the industrial processes they control improves real-time control and reduces network traffic and information latency.

On the other hand, there are also equally convincing rationales to consider the use of less sophisticated and less autonomous edge devices.

First, devices that do not need to perform complex computational tasks are simpler and cheaper, consume less power, and are less prone to failures. And because of their low computation bandwidth and limited command and control reach, these devices are far less prone to hacking.

Much more importantly, however, many business decisions should not and cannot be performed at the edge device level. While command and control of a single machine can be done locally and autonomously, the type of deep insight that drives predictive analytics and long-term decisions is based on multiple inputs from the broader IoT and business network: multiple machines, multiple production lines, and in multiple locales. These types of analyses and decisions can only be carried out centrally.

There is no single “ideal” architectural. The power of the Internet of Things is in the ability to form a flexible decision-making architecture, and to move analytics and decision making as needed between edge devices (for example, for real-time control), and centralized cloud applications such as fleet optimization.

In my book The Outcome Economy: How the Industrial Internet of Things is Transforming Every Business, I propose a taxonomy of IoT devices, which can serve to determine the level of decision-authority that should be given to different edge devices.  The following is a shorter version of this taxonomy description.

Activity-Aware Devices

The basic building blocks of the Industrial IoT are single-task devices such as sensors, pumps, valves, and motors. These devices can measure and send discrete pieces of information (a sensor) or respond to a simple on/off command (a pump, a valve, or a motor).

An activity-aware object “understands” the physical world in terms of event and activity streams, where each event or activity is directly related to the task the object is to perform: turn on, measure, etc.

The operating model of activity-aware devices is typically a simple linear sequence of data collection and processing functions, such as a time or state series. These devices primarily measure and log data, but do not provide interactive, analytic, or self-governance capabilities.

Policy-Aware Devices

A policy-aware device is an activity-aware object with an embedded policy model. A policy-aware device can sense and interpret events and activities and respond to them based on predefined operational and organizational policies.

The governance model of policy-aware devices consists of application-specific policies expressed as a set of rules that operate on event and activity streams to create actions. The model provides context-sensitive information about event handling and work-activity performance. In particular, it can issue warnings and alerts if it’s unable to comply with the policy or the operating model.

Many industrial devices, even simple ones, are policy-aware devices. For example, a thermostat in a cold-chain application is commanded to maintain a certain ambient temperature range. In other words, the thermostat has an autonomous decision-making capability to enable it to comply with the policy. An air-conditioning unit and an alarm system are other examples of policy-aware devices.

Process-Aware Devices

A process is a collection of related activities that are sequenced in time and space to accomplish a task or a combination of tasks. Process execution rules can be included for dynamic recombination of activities to support a broader range of interrelated activities, tasks, and sub-tasks, and have greater event-handling agility and decision capacity.

A process-aware device is aware of and “understands” the organizational processes that it is a part of. Moreover, it is also aware of other devices in its subnetwork operating in tandem to implement the process and can relate the occurrence of real-world activities and events of these processes to the user.

Cold-chain logistics, process automation and control, robots, and manufacturing execution systems (MES) are examples of process-aware applications.

The application model of process-aware objects is built around a dynamic context-aware workflow model that defines timing and ordering of work activities. Work processes (that is, sequence and timing of activities and events) communicate with others to accomplish predefined, high-level tasks.

Not Everything Than Can Be Connected, Should Be

Every industry survey stresses security concerns as one of the top hurdles in the way of broad adoption, and the publicity of IoT-generated DDoS attacks, which impacted both businesses and individuals, will further erode the confidence of consumers and corporations alike. There’s probably very little damage in curbing the enthusiasm of those that marvel the vision of connected refrigerators and toasters, but the participants in the Industrial IoT and the connected infrastructure overall, should intensify the conversation about standardization, certification and registration, and the delicate balance between enforcement and enticement.

These conversations are critical, but, as stated before, are not limited in scope to the Internet of Things.

While we work to encourage the use of standards, best practices, and better technology, let’s remember that not everything than can be connected, should be.  Let’s focus on valuable scenarios rather than the digital chatting between coffee pots and toasters.

(Portions of this articles are from The Outcome Economy: How the Industrial Internet of Things is Transforming Every Business)

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How insecurity is damaging the IoT industry

internet of things

Guest post by Ben Dickson. This story originally appeared here

The Internet of Things (IoT) is often hyped as the next industrial revolution—and it’s not an overstatement. Its use cases are still being discovered and it has the potential to change life and business as we know it today. But as much as IoT is disruptive, it can also be destructive, and never has this reality been felt as we’re feeling it today.

On Friday, a huge DDoS attack against Dyn DNS servers led to the majority of internet users in the U.S. east coast being shut off from major websites such as Twitter, Amazon, Spotify, Netflix and PayPal.

The culprit behind the attack was a huge botnet. Botnets are armies of zombie computers, vulnerable devices secretly compromised by hackers, which are silently doing the bidding of their masters, the botlords, without their true owners knowing about it.

While botnets and DDoS attacks are nothing new and have been around for a while, the advent and propagation of IoT devices has led to their chaotic growth. There are now millions of vulnerable IoT devices that are easier to access and even easier to hack than, say, computers and tablets that are packed with anti-virus software. That’s why IoT botnets are fast becoming a favorite for bot herders and a real threat for the cybersecurity industry. Put in another way, they are democratizing censorship by enabling any hacker with minimal resources to launch government-level DDoS attacks and bring down sites they don’t like.

This is sad news for the IoT industry. It is now evident more than ever that the IoT industry is in a mess, and it’s going to take more than individual efforts to fix it.

The problem, as I see it, is that all the parties that are directly—or indirectly—involved are either ignorant about security issues or have other priorities.

For their part, manufacturers are too focused on shipping feature-complete devices rather than creating secure and reliable products. After all, the IoT industry is in its gold rush era, and everyone is in a hurry to climb the bandwagon and grab a larger piece of the pie.

And that’s how security concerns take a backseat row in IoT development while timing and costs become prominent.

But why are the manufacturers getting away with their incompetence at securing IoT devices? Because others—namely consumers—couldn’t care less. As the manufacturers will tell you, customers don’t buy security, they buy functionality. They want something that works in an install-and-forget model and don’t want to be pestered with security procedures and practices such as password resets and software updates—and costs for things they can’t directly see with their eyes.

As for governments, they’re concerned about the security of IoT, but they’re not doing enough to regulate it and compel companies to vet their products for security and resilience against attack. The only novel and honest efforts we’ve seen so far include initiatives such as the IoT Security Foundation, but there’s only so much a single organization can do when it’s dealing with billions of potentially vulnerable devices and deaf ears that won’t listen to the voice of reason.

And here we are, almost on the brink of IoT devices outnumbering humans, and already devices of our own making are being used to deny us access to our most vital services and needs.

Friday’s spate of IoT-powered DDoS attacks should serve as a wake-up call, not only for IoT manufacturers, adopters and consumers, but for everyone. Many of the people who were affected by the attacks didn’t even know what IoT is.

So whether you care about IoT or not, it’s in your interest to see it secured.

And as much as I love IoT, I’m sad to see the industry destroying itself.

So what’s the solution? I like the thoughts shared by Bruce Schneier in this Vice Motherboard article, and I’d like to build on those to raise the following points, very concisely:

  • Manufacturers should make security an inherent part of their development cycle. Security shouldn’t come as an afterthought but as an integral part of building any IoT or other connected device. And I’ve said this a million times.
  • Consumers should take their own security more seriously. Our lives are becoming more connected than before. Internet services and resources are more vital to our daily tasks than any other time in history. So we should be more vigilant about the integrity of the devices that are being connected to the internet and hold their manufacturers to account for the security shortcomings. (Security developer Edward Robles has shared some interesting thoughts on how we should change our mindsets toward security in this guest post.)
  • Governments must play a more active role in regulating and controlling IoT security. Standards must be set to make sure every single device that is shipped to the market and connected to the internet complies with a set of security standards and punish organizations that do not abide by the rules.

Of course, no single government can control the security of all the devices being connected to the internet. I’m thinking about a solution based on blockchain technology that will create a global answer to vetting IoT devices for security. I’ll write about it in the future.

What’s urgent is to have a concerted and unified effort to fix the messy state of IoT security. Today, we’re dealing with DDoS attack. Tomorrow, it could be something worse.

There’s no putting the genie back in the bottle. For better or for worse, IoT will transform our future. Let’s work together to make sure it’s going to be the former and not the latter.

How do you think we should deal with IoT security problems? Share in the comments section.

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Do not stop asking for security in IoT

Almost three years ago, I wrote in my IoT blog  the posts “Are you prepared to answer M2M/IoT security questions of your customers ?. and “There is no consensus how best to implement security in IoT” given the importance that Security has to fulfil the promise of the Internet of Things (IoT).

And during this time I have been sharing my opinion about the key role of IoT Security with other international experts in articles “What is the danger of taking M2M communications to the Internet of Things?, and events (Cycon , IoT Global Innovation Forum 2016).

The Security has been always a tradeoff between cost and benefit

I am honest when I say that I do not known how McKinsey gets calculate the total impact that IoT will have on the world economy in 2025, even on one of the specific sectors, and if they had taking into account the challenge of the Security, but it hardly matters: “The opportunities generated by IoT far outweigh the risks”.

With increased IoT opportunity comes increased security risks and a flourishing IoT Security Market (According with Zion Research the IoT Security Market will growth to USD 464 million in 2020).

A decade of breaches and the biggest attack target yet is looming

We all know the negative impact that news about cyber-attacks has in the society and enterprises. In less than a decade and according to Data Source: ICS- CERT (US) have gone from 39 incidents in 2010 to 295 incidents in 2015.

In a survey published by ATT, the company has logged a 458% increase in vulnerability scans of IoT devices in the last 2 years.

It is a temptation for hackers to test their skills in connected objects, whether connected cars or smart homes appliances. But I'm afraid they will go far beyond attacking smart factories, or smart transportation infrastructure or smart grids.

With the millions of unprotected devices out there, the multitude of IoT networks, IoT Platforms, and developers with lack of security I am one more that believes the biggest attack target yet is looming.

 New Threats

With the Internet of Things, we should be prepared for new attacks and we must design new essential defences.

The complex IoT Security Threat Map from Beecham Research provides an overlayed summary of the full set of threat and vulnerability analyses that is used to help clients shape their strategies. This Threat Map “summary” many of the top 5 features from each of those analyses.

1.       external threats and the top internal vulnerabilities of IoT applications

2.       the needs for robust authentication & authorisation & confidentiality

3.       the features and interactions between multiple networks used together in IoT;

4.       the complexities of combining Service Sector optimised capabilities of differing Service Enablement Platforms;

5.       the implementation and defences of edge device operating systems, chip integration and the associated Root of Trust.

 New Vulnerabilities

The OWASP Internet of Things Project is designed to help manufacturers, developers, and consumers better understand the security issues associated with the Internet of Things, and to enable users in any context to make better security decisions when building, deploying, or assessing IoT technologies.

The project looks to define a structure for various IoT sub-projects such as Attack Surface Areas, Testing Guides and Top Vulnerabilities. Bellow the top IoT Vulnerabilities.

 Subex white paper presenting their IoT solution add some real examples of  these vulnerabilities.

Insecure Web Interface: To exploit this vulnerability, attacker uses weak credentials or captures plain text credentials to access web interface. The impact results in data loss, denial of service and can lead to complete device take over. An insecure web interface was exploited by hackers to compromise Asus routers in 2014 that were shipped with default admin user name and password.

Insufficient Authentication/Authorization: Exploitation of this vulnerability involves attacker brute forcing weak passwords or poorly protected credentials to access a particular interface. The impact from this kind of attack is usually denial of service and can also lead to compromise of device. This vulnerability was exploited by ethical hackers to access head unit of Jeep Cherokee2 via WiFi-connectivity. The WiFi password for Jeep Cherokee unit is generated automatically based upon the time when car and head unit is started up. By guessing the time and using brute force techniques, the hackers were able to gain access to head unit.

Insecure Network Services: Attacker uses vulnerable network services to attack the device itself or bounce attacks off the device. Attackers can then use the compromised devices to facilitate attacks on other devices. This vulnerability was exploited by hackers that used 900 CCTV cameras3 globally to DoS attack a cloud platform service.

Lack of Transport Encryption: A lack of transport encryption allows 3rd parties to view data transmitted over the network. The impact of this kind of attack can lead to compromise of device or user accounts depending upon the data exposed. This weakness was exhibited by Toy Talk’s server domain which was susceptible to POODLE attack. Toy Talk helps Hello Barbie doll4 to talk to a child by uploading the words of a child to server and provide appropriate response after processing it. Though there was no reported hack on this, such a vulnerability could easily lead to one.

Privacy Concerns: Hackers use different vectors to view and/or collect personal data which is not properly protected. The impact of this attack is collection of personal user data. This vulnerability was exemplified by the VTech hack5 wherein in hackers were able to steal personal data of parents as well as children using VTech’s tablet.

Who owns the problem?

With the IoT we are creating a very complicated supply chain with lots of stakeholders so it's not always clear 'who owns the problem'. By way of an example with a simple home application and not Super Installers around; if you buy a central heating system and controller which requires you to push a button to increase the temperature then if it stops working you contact the company who supplied it. But if you buy a central heating boiler from one company, a wireless temperature controller from another, download a mobile App from another and have a weather station from another supplier then whose job is it to make sure it's secure and reliable? The simple cop-out is to say 'the homeowner bought the bits and connected them together therefore it's their responsibility' – well I'm sorry but that isn't good enough! 

Manufacturers can't simply divest themselves of responsibility simply because the home owner bought several component parts from different retailers. As a manufacturer you have a responsibility to ensure that your product is secure and reliable when used in any of the possible scenarios and use cases which means that manufacturers need to work together to ensure interoperability – we all own the problem!

This might come as a shock to some companies/industries but at some level even competitors have to work together to agree and implement architectures and connectivity that is secure and reliable. Standardization is a good example of this, if you look at the companies actively working together in ISO, ETSI, Bluetooth SIG etc. then they are often fierce competitors but they all recognize the need to work together to define common, secure and reliable platforms around which they can build interoperable products.  

If Cybersecurity is already top of mind for many organizations, is justified the alarm of lack of security in IoT?

In this three last years of evangelization of IoT, it has been no event or article not collect questions or comments on IoT Security and Privacy.

The good news is that according with the ATT State of IoT Security survey 2015, 85% of global organizations are considering exploring or implementing an IoT strategy but the bad news is that only 10% are fully confident that their connected devices are secure.

Source: ATT State of IoT Security survey 2015

And if we consider the report of Auth0, it scares me that only 10% of developers believe that most IoT devices on the market right now have the necessary security in place.

 

Source: Auth0

In a publication from EY titled “Cybersecurity and the IoT”, the company define three Stages to classify the current status of organizations in the implementation of IoT Security.

Stage 1: Activate

Organizations need to have a solid foundation of cybersecurity. This comprises a comprehensive set of information security measures, which will provide basic (but not good) defense against cyber-attacks. At this stage, organizations establish their fundamentals — i.e., they “activate” their cybersecurity.

Stage 2: Adapt

Organizations change — whether for survival or for growth. Threats also change. Therefore, the foundation of information security measures must adapt to keep pace and match the changing business requirements and dynamics otherwise they will become less and less effective over time. At this stage, organizations work to keep their cybersecurity up-to-date; i.e., they “adapt” to changing requirements.

Stage 3: Anticipate

Organizations need to develop tactics to detect and detract potential cyber-attacks. They must know exactly what they need to protect their most valuable assets, and rehearse appropriate responses to likely attack/incident scenarios: this requires a mature cyber threat intelligence capability, a robust risk assessment methodology, an experienced incident response mechanism and an informed organization. At this stage, organizations are more confident about their ability to handle more predictable threats and unexpected attacks; i.e., they anticipate cyber-attacks.

 

What enterprises needs to do

If you are thinking only in the benefits of IoT without consider the Security as a key component in your strategy you will probably regret very soon. Here below some recommendations either before start your IoT journey or if you are already started. Hope is not too late for wise advices.

Key Takeaways

With the proliferation and variety of IoT Devices, IoT Networks, IoT Platforms, Clouds, and applications, during the next few years we will see new vulnerabilities and a variety of new attacks. The progress in the security technologies and processes that prevent them will be key for the adoption of IoT in enterprises and consumers.

In the future Internet of Things world an end to end security approach to protect physical and digital assets. The ecosystems of this fragmented market must understand the need of Security by Design and avoid the temptation to reduce cost at the expense of the security.

Do not stop asking for security when you buy a connected product or use an IoT Service, the temptation of time to market, competitive prices and the lack of resources must not be an excuse to offer secure IoT solutions to enterprises, consumers and citizens.

 

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As if the Internet of Things (IoT) was not complicated enough, the Marketing team at Cisco introduced its Fog Computing vision in January 2014, also known as Edge Computing  for other more purist vendors.

Given Cisco´s frantic activity in their Internet of Everything (IoE) marketing campaigns, it is not surprising that many bloggers have abused of shocking headlines around this subject taking advantage of the Hype of the IoT.

I hope this post help you better understand what is  the role of Fog Computing  in the IoT Reference Model and how companies are using IoT Intelligent gateways in the Fog to connect the "Things" to the Cloud through some applications areas and examples of Fog Computing.

The problem with the cloud

As the Internet of Things proliferates, businesses face a growing need to analyze data from sources at the edge of a network, whether mobile phones, gateways, or IoT sensors. Cloud computing has a disadvantage: It can’t process data quickly enough for modern business applications.

The IoT owes its explosive growth to the connection of physical things and operation technologies (OT) to analytics and machine learning applications, which can help glean insights from device-generated data and enable devices to make “smart” decisions without human intervention. Currently, such resources are mostly being provided by cloud service providers, where the computation and storage capacity exists.

However, despite its power, the cloud model is not applicable to environments where operations are time-critical or internet connectivity is poor. This is especially true in scenarios such as telemedicine and patient care, where milliseconds can have fatal consequences. The same can be said about vehicle to vehicle communications, where the prevention of collisions and accidents can’t afford the latency caused by the roundtrip to the cloud server.

“The cloud paradigm is like having your brain command your limbs from miles away — it won’t help you where you need quick reflexes.”

Moreover, having every device connected to the cloud and sending raw data over the internet can have privacy, security and legal implications, especially when dealing with sensitive data that is subject to separate regulations in different countries.

IoT nodes are closer to the action, but for the moment, they do not have the computing and storage resources to perform analytics and machine learning tasks. Cloud servers, on the other hand, have the horsepower, but are too far away to process data and respond in time.

The fog layer is the perfect junction where there are enough compute, storage and networking resources to mimic cloud capabilities at the edge and support the local ingestion of data and the quick turnaround of results.

The variety of IoT systems and the need for flexible solutions that respond to real-time events quickly make Fog Computing a compelling option.

The Fog Computing, Oh my good another layer in IoT!

A study by IDC estimates that by 2020, 10 percent of the world’s data will be produced by edge devices. This will further drive the need for more efficient fog computing solutions that provide low latency and holistic intelligence simultaneously.

“Computing at the edge of the network is, of course, not new -- we've been doing it for years to solve the same issue with other kinds of computing.”

The Fog Computing or Edge Computing  is a paradigm championed by some of the biggest IoT technology players, including Cisco, IBM, and Dell and represents a shift in architecture in which intelligence is pushed from the cloud to the edge, localizing certain kinds of analysis and decision-making.

Fog Computing enables quicker response times, unencumbered by network latency, as well as reduced traffic, selectively relaying the appropriate data to the cloud.

The concept of Fog Computing attempts to transcend some of these physical limitations. With Fog Computing processing happens on nodes physically closer to where the data is originally collected instead of sending vast amounts of IoT data to the cloud.

Photo Source: http://electronicdesign.com/site-files/electronicdesign.com/files/uploads/2014/06/113191_fig4sm-cisco-fog-computing.jpg

The OpenFog Consortium

The OpenFog Consortium, was founded on the premise based on open architectures and standards that are essential for the success of a ubiquitous Fog Computing ecosystem.

The collaboration among tech giants such as ARM, Cisco, Dell, GE, Intel, Microsoft and Schneider Electric defining an Open, Interoperable Fog Computing Architecture is without any doubt good news for a vibrant supplier ecosystem.

The OpenFog Reference Architecture is an architectural evolution from traditional closed systems and the burgeoning cloud-only models to an approach that emphasizes computation nearest the edge of the network when dictated by business concerns or critical application the functional requirements of the system.

The OpenFog Reference Architecture consists of putting micro data centers or even small, purpose-built high-performance data analytics machines in remote offices and locations in order to gain real-time insights from the data collected, or to promote data thinning at the edge, by dramatically reducing the amount of data that needs to be transmitted to a central data center. Without having to move unnecessary data to a central data center, analytics at the edge can simplify and drastically speed analysis while also cutting costs.

Benefits of Fog Computing

  • ·         Frees up network capacity - Fog computing uses much less bandwidth, which means it doesn't cause bottlenecks and other similar occupancies. Less data movement on the network frees up network capacity, which then can be used for other things.
  • ·         It is truly real-time - Fog computing has much higher expedience than any other cloud computing architecture we know today. Since all data analysis are being done at the spot it represents a true real time concept, which means it is a perfect match for the needs of Internet of Things concept.
  • ·         Boosts data security - Collected data is more secure when it doesn't travel. Also makes data storing much simpler, because it stays in its country of origin. Sending data abroad might violate certain laws.
  • ·         Analytics is done locally- Fog computing concept enables developers to access most important IoT data from other locations, but it still keeps piles of less important information in local storages;
  • ·         Some companies don't like their data being out of their premises- with Fog Computing lots of data is stored on the devices themselves (which are often located outside of company offices), this is perceived as a risk by part of developers' community.
  • ·         Whole system sounds a little bit confusing- Concept that includes huge number of devices that store, analyze and send their own data, located all around the world sounds utterly confusing.

Disadvantages of Fog Computing

Read more: http://bigdata.sys-con.com/node/3809885

Examples of Fog Computing

The applications of fog computing are many, and it is powering crucial parts of IoT ecosystems, especially in industrial environments. See below some use cases and examples.

  • Thanks to the power of fog computing, New York-based renewable energy company Envision has been able to obtain a 15 percent productivity improvement from the vast network of wind turbines it operates. The company is processing as much as 20 terabytes of data at a time, generated by 3 million sensors installed on the 20,000 turbines it manages. Moving computation to the edge has enabled Envision to cut down data analysis time from 10 minutes to mere seconds, providing them with actionable insights and significant business benefits.
  • Plat One is another firm using fog computing to improve data processing for the more than 1 million sensors it manages. The company uses the Cisco-ParStream platform to publish real-time sensor measurements for hundreds of thousands of devices, including smart lighting and parking, port and transportation management and a network of 50,000 coffee machines.
  • In Palo Alto, California, a $3 million project will enable traffic lights to integrate with connected vehicles, hopefully creating a future in which people won’t be waiting in their cars at empty intersections for no reason.
  • In transportation, it’s helping semi-autonomous cars assist drivers in avoiding distraction and veering off the road by providing real-time analytics and decisions on driving patterns.
  • It also can help reduce the transfer of gigantic volumes of audio and video recordings generated by police dashboard and video cameras. Cameras equipped with edge computing capabilities could analyze video feeds in real time and only send relevant data to the cloud when necessary.

See more at: Why Edge Computing Is Here to Stay: Five Use Cases By Patrick McGarry  

What is the future of fog computing?

The current trend shows that fog computing will continue to grow in usage and importance as the Internet of Things expands and conquers new grounds. With inexpensive, low-power processing and storage becoming more available, we can expect computation to move even closer to the edge and become ingrained in the same devices that are generating the data, creating even greater possibilities for inter-device intelligence and interactions. Sensors that only log data might one day become a thing of the past.

Janakiram MSV  wondered if Fog Computing  will be the Next Big Thing In Internet of Things? . It seems obvious that while cloud is a perfect match for the Internet of Things, we have other scenarios and IoT solutions that demand low-latency ingestion and immediate processing of data where Fog Computing is the answer.

Does the fog eliminate the cloud?

Fog computing improves efficiency and reduces the amount of data that needs to be sent to the cloud for processing. But it’s here to complement the cloud, not replace it.

The cloud will continue to have a pertinent role in the IoT cycle. In fact, with fog computing shouldering the burden of short-term analytics at the edge, cloud resources will be freed to take on the heavier tasks, especially where the analysis of historical data and large datasets is concerned. Insights obtained by the cloud can help update and tweak policies and functionality at the fog layer.

And there are still many cases where the centralized, highly efficient computing infrastructure of the cloud will outperform decentralized systems in performance, scalability and costs. This includes environments where data needs to be analyzed from largely dispersed sources.

“It is the combination of fog and cloud computing that will accelerate the adoption of IoT, especially for the enterprise.”

In essence, Fog Computing allows for big data to be processed locally, or at least in closer proximity to the systems that rely on it. Newer machines could incorporate more powerful microprocessors, and interact more fluidly with other machines on the edge of the network. While fog isn’t a replacement for cloud architecture, it is a necessary step forward that will facilitate the advancement of IoT, as more industries and businesses adopt emerging technologies.

'The Cloud' is not Over

Fog computing is far from a panacea. One of the immediate costs associated with this method pertains to equipping end devices with the necessary hardware to perform calculations remotely and independent of centralized data centers. Some vendors, however, are in the process of perfecting technologies for that purpose. The tradeoff is that by investing in such solutions immediately, organizations will avoid frequently updating their infrastructure and networks to deal with ever increasing data amounts as the IoT expands.

There are certain data types and use cases that actually benefit from centralized models. Data that carries the utmost security concerns, for example, will require the secure advantages of a centralized approach or one that continues to rely solely on physical infrastructure.

Though the benefits of Fog Computing are undeniable, the Cloud has a secure future in IoT for most companies with less time-sensitive computing needs and for analysing all the data gathered by IoT sensors.

 

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The IoT has a big security problem. We've discussed it here, here and here. Adding to these woes is a new report on the Top 10 Internet of Radios Vulnerabilities. Yes, radios...because IoT so much more than data, networking, software, analytics devices, platforms, etc. When you're not hardwired, radio is the only thing keeping you connected. The findings come from Bastille who, like many vendors, has a clear commercial, self-serving interest in the findings, but nonetheless, the study is interesting given the fact that the largest DDoS attack ever was executed using "dumb" connected devices. Bastille defines the Internet of Radios as the combination of mobile, wireless, bring your own device (BYOD), and Internet of Things (IoT) devices operating within the radio frequency (RF) spectrum.

The vulnerabilities are:  

  1. Rogue Cell Towers (‘Stingrays’, ‘IMSI Catchers’)
  2. Rogue Wi-Fi HotSpots
  3. Bluetooth Data Exfiltration (tethering)
  4. Eavesdropping/Surveillance Devices (e.g. conference room bugs)
  5. Vulnerable Wireless Peripherals (mice/keyboard)
  6. Unapproved Cellular Device Presence
  7. Unapproved Wireless Cameras
  8. Vulnerable Wireless Building Controls
  9. Unapproved IoT Emitters
  10. Vulnerable Building Alarm Systems

In addition to the Top 10 list, Bastille has released results of the “Bastille Internet of Radios Security Poll.” Nearly 300 global professionals took part in the poll, offering a snapshot into enterprise awareness and preparedness of Internet of Radios threats in the workplace. The poll was conducted July 26–August 3, 2016 and was comprised of visitors to the Bastille, KeySniffer and MouseJack websites. The majority of respondents (69%) reported they were employed in the IT and cybersecurity industries. Key takeaways:

  • 78% of respondents believe the threat from the Internet of Radios will increase in the next 12 months.
  • 50% of respondents believe IoT devices are already impacting security.
  • 51% of respondents say their companies have adopted a BYOD policy, but only 24% say the policy is strictly enforced.
  • 42% of respondents say their organization has not implemented a BYOD policy at all.
  • 47% of respondents say their organization is not currently using a Mobile Device Management (MDM) system, compared to 41% that already have one in place.

 Photo Credit: Sergio Sena 

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5 Steps to Creating a Secure Smart Home

First came smartphones, equipped with the ability to set alarms and calendar notifications, reminders, and other convenient apps and services to make our lives easier. Taking that a step further are “smart homes” or automated homes, which allow users to remotely control devices in the home such as lights, televisions, and even toilets and water pumps, using a smartphone or computer. Aside from remote control, however, smart systems in homes can also help make the home more adaptable. For example, Nest is a smart system that learns the home’s inhabitants’ schedules and preferences to heat or cool the house for maximum efficiency and comfort. Sounds great, right? Many people think so, which is why the industry is projected to keep growing quickly from 48 billion in 2012 to an estimated $115 billion by 2019

Smart homes are among the first steps toward mass adoption of the Internet of Things (electronic devices connected to both the Internet and to each other for data collection and sharing), but there are some major security concerns involved with their implementation. Kashmir Hill, a writer for Forbes, revealed that she was able to access 8 smart home systems simply by searching for a list of the homes on Google. The company that had set up these homes did not require a username or password, allowing Hill to start monkeying with the homes’ lights and other devices at once. After alerting the owners to the real security risks implicated by these readily-available controls, Hill did some more research on the security of smart homes—and found out that precautions had been less than stellar in protecting homes from cybercrime.

The Threat of Cybercrime

Neglecting to add password protection and allowing the controls to show up in search engines were a combination of user and company error, but Insteon, which installed these systems, hasn’t improved their systems that much. Security professionals revealed it would be easy to hack the passwords, making homes vulnerable to cybercrime. Security issues are a major worldwide problem, with 80-90 million cybersecurity events per year, 70% of which go undetected. Because attacks on smart homes leave families vulnerable to both identity theft and physical intrusion, a solid cybersecurity system is an absolute must. Here are 5 tips for creating a secure smart home and avoiding breaches.

1. Choose the Right Company

As security experts discovered, thwarting hackers isn’t at the top of many companies’ to-do list when putting out smart home systems. As a consumer, it’s important to shop around and ask questions about the systems’ security to ensure adequate measures have been taken to make sure it’s difficult for hackers to access the homes’ devices. Ask about password protection, encryption use, and how data is collected, used, and stored.

2. Set Up Basic Security

As a smart home owner, you’ll need to be sure that your devices can’t be accessed by strangers with ease. Take a look at the credentials required for each app and portal that can access your devices, and change any default PIN numbers and passwords to reduce the chance that an unauthorized person could access your data. Ensuring your security configurations are correct is essential to a strong smart home security system. Finally, firewall and anti-virus software will help keep your home safe. Your WiFi security should be strong as well, though it’s a myth that smart devices can only be access on the home’s WiFi systems. 

3. Use Biometrics and Wearables

Biometrics are extremely helpful in creating strong security systems. Fingerprint scanning, facial or voice recognition, and even heart rate variability from wearable smart devices can help to enhance security and ensure that no one but the main user has access to systems and devices unless granted permission. 

4. Keep Smart Devices Updated

Updating computer systems can be a pain, but not keeping up with these security updates can leave devices vulnerable to attack. Keep all your devices up to date, including both your homes’ devices, and the devices you use to control them. 

5. Install Alerts 

There are applications available that can alert users if there has been an unauthorized attempt to access a connected device. It’s a good idea to install one of these apps (choosing an option that will allow alerts to be accepted or declined when triggered) to help monitor the activity on your smart home system. 

An Exciting Development 

As the technology advances, smart homes will become more and more useful to their inhabitants, providing personalization and reminders that can enhance everyday life. However, security risks involved with these systems are ever-present, and careful precautions should be taken to avoid attacks. Don’t be a victim of theft—consider cybersecurity carefully when updating your home.  

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Over on MotherBoard, noted cryptographer, computer security and privacy specialist, and writer, Bruce Schneier pens his thoughts on the recent gaping holes in security for Internet connected devices. When Bruce speaks, people listen. 

First, if you haven't been following the recent DDoS attacks using IoT devices, read this. In short, IoT devices have been comprised to attack networks. 

It's so bad that Bruce is calling out the IoT market for failing to secure their devices and machines that connect to the Internet and is asking for government intervention.

He writes:

What this attack demonstrates is that the economics of the IoT mean that it will remain insecure unless government steps in to fix the problem. This is a market failure that can't get fixed on its own.

He continues that security has been built into many our computers and smartphones because there is money to invest in security, the same can't be said for low margin embedded systems like digital video recorders or home routers. Security is not their expertise. Even worse, he adds, most of these devices don't have any way to be patched.

He argues the market can't fix this because neither the buyer nor the seller cares. Government must step in and solve the problem says, Schneier.

What do you think?

Full article on Motherboard here

 

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IoT Devices Common Thread in Colossal DDoS Attacks

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story originally appeared on the A10 Networks blog.

A pair of distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks against high-profile targets last week rank among the largest DDoS attacks on record. And a common thread has emerged: these attacks are leveraging botnets comprising hundreds of thousands of unsecured Internet of Things (IoT) devices.

OVH attack reaches 1 Tbps

European Web hosting company OVH confirmed last week that it suffered a string of DDoS attacks that neared the 1 Tbps mark. On Twitter, OVH CTO Octave Klaba said the attacks OVH suffered were “close to 1 Tbps” and noted that the flood of traffic was fueled by a botnet made up of nearly 150,000 digital video recorders and IP cameras capable of sending 1.5 Tbps in DDoS traffic. Klaba said OVH servers were hit by multiple simultaneous attacks exceeding 100 Gbps each, totaling more than 1 Tbps. The most severe single attacks that was documented by OVH reached 93 million packets-per-second (mpps) and 799 Gbps.

SC Magazine UK quoted security researcher Mustafa Al-Bassam as saying the DDoS attack against OVH is “the largest DDoS attack ever recorded.”

Krebs gets slammed

The OVH attack came on the heels of another gargantuan DDoS incident, this one targeting respected cybersecurity blog Krebsonsecurity.com, which knocked the site offline for several hours.

“The outage came in the wake of a historically large distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack which hurled so much junk traffic at Krebsonsecurity.com that my DDoS protection provider Akamai chose to unmoor my site from its protective harbor,” Brian Krebs wrote, adding that he has since implemented DDoS protection from Google’s Project Shield.

The attack on Krebs clocked in at a massive 620 Gbps in size, which is several orders of magnitude more traffic than is typically necessary to knock most websites offline.

SecurityWeek reported that Krebs believes the botnet used to target his blog mostly consists of IoT devices — perhaps millions of them — such as webcams and routers that have default or weak credentials.

“There is every indication that this attack was launched with the help of a botnet that has enslaved a large number of hacked so-called ‘Internet of Things,’ (IoT) devices — mainly routers, IP cameras and digital video recorders (DVRs) that are exposed to the Internet and protected with weak or hard-coded passwords,” Krebs wrote.

Reports indicate that the attack was in response to Krebs reporting on and exposing vDOS, a service run by two Israelis who were offering a DDoS-as-a-Service play and were arrested after Krebs’ story was published.

IoT insecurity

Security researchers have warned that improperly secured IoT devices are more frequently being used to launch DDoS attacks. Symantec last week noted that hackers can easily hijack unsecured IoT devices due to lack of basic security controls and add them to a botnet, which they then use to launch a DDoS attack.

“Poor security on many IoT devices makes them soft targets and often victims may not even know they have been infected,” Symantec wrote. “Attackers are now highly aware of lax IoT security and many pre-program their malware with commonly used and default passwords.”

And while DDoS attacks remain the main purpose of IoT malware, Symantec warned that the proliferation of devices and their increased processing power may create new ways for threat actors to leverage IoT, such as cryptocurrency mining, information stealing and network reconnaissance.

 

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Guest blog post by Bill Vorhies

Summary:  Deep learning and Big Data are being adopted in law enforcement and criminal justice at an unprecedented rate.  Does this scare you or make you feel safe?

 

When you read the title, whether your mind immediately went for the upstairs “H” or the downstairs “H” probably says something about whether the new applications of Big Data in law enforcement let you sleep like a baby or keep you up at night. 

You might have thought your choice of “H” related to whether you’ve been on the receiving end of Big Data in law enforcement but the fact is that practically all of us have, and for those who haven’t it won’t take much longer to reach you.

There is an absolute explosion in the use of Big Data and predictive analytics in our legal system today driven by the latest innovations in data science and by some obvious applications.

It hasn’t always been so.  In the middle 90s I was part of the first wave trying to convince law enforcement to adopt what was then cutting edge data science.  At the time that was mostly GIS analysis combined with predictive analytics to create what we called predictive policing.  That is predicting where and at what time of day crime of each type was most likely to occur so that manpower could be effectively allocated.  Seems so quaint now.  It was actually quite successful but the public sector had never been quick to adapt to new technology so there weren’t many takers.

That trend about slow adoption has changed.  So while accelerating the usage of advanced analytics to keep the peace may keep some civil libertarians up at night, it’s coming faster than ever, and it’s our most advanced techniques in deep learning that are driving it.

By now you’ve probably figured out the deep learning is best used for three things: image recognition, speech recognition, and text processing.  Here are two stories illustrating how this is impacting law enforcement.

 

Police Ramp Up Scrutiny Over On Line Threats

The article by this title appeared in the July 20 WSJ.  Given what’s been happening recently both internationally and at home most of us probably applaud the use of text analytics to monitor for early warning signs of home grown miscreants.  The article states “In the past two weeks at least eight people have been arrested by state and federal authorities for threats against police posted on social media”.  It remains to be seen if these will turn into criminal prosecutions and how this will play out against 1st Amendment rights but as a society we seem to be OK for trading a little of one for more of the other.

It’s always in the back of our minds whether this is Facebook, Twitter, Apple, Google and the others actively cooperating in undisclosed programs to aid the police, but this article specifically calls out the fact that the police were the ones doing the monitoring.  Whether they’ve built these capabilities in-house or are using contractors isn’t clear.  What is clear is that advanced text analytics and deep learning were the data science elements behind it.

 

Taser – the Data Science Company

The second example comes from an article in Business Week’s July 18 issue, “Will a Camera on Every Cop Help Save Lives or Just Make a Tech Company Richer”.  

Taser – a tech company?  When I think about Taser, the maker of the ubiquitous electric stun gun, I am much more likely to associate them with Smith & Wesson than with Silicon Valley and apparently I couldn’t be more wrong.

In short the story goes like this.  In the 90s Taser dominated the market for non-lethal police weapons to provide better alternatives for a wide variety of incidents where bullets should not be the answer.  By the 2000s Taser had successfully saturated that market and its next big opportunity came from the unfortunate Ferguson Mo. unrest. 

That opportunity turned out to be wearable cameras.  Although the wearable police cameras date back to about 2008 there really hadn’t been much demand until the public outcry for transparency in policing became overwhelming.

Taser now also dominates the wearable camera market.  Like its namesake stun gun however, sales of Tasers or wearable cameras are basically a one-and-done market.  Once saturated, it offers only replacement sales, not a robust model for corporate expansion.  So far this sounds more like a story about a hardware company than a data science tech company and here’s the transition.

The cameras are producing huge volumes of video images that need to be preserved at the highest levels of chain-of-evidence security for use in criminal justice proceedings.  Taser bought a startup in the photo sharing space and adapted it to their new flagship product Evidence.com, a subscription based software platform now positioned as a ‘secure cloud-based solution’.

According the BW article, “4.6 Petabytes of video have been uploaded to the platform, an amount comparable to Netflix’s entire streaming catalogue”.  Taser is a major customer of MS Azure. And for police departments that have adopted, video is now reported to be presented as evidence in 20% to 25% of cases.

But this story is not just about storing recorded video.  It is about how police and prosecutors have become overwhelmed with the sheer volume of ‘video data’ and the need to simplify and speed access.  The answer is image recognition driven by deep learning.  Taser now earns more than ¾ ths of its revenue from its Evidence.com platform and is rapidly transforming from hardware to app to data science company to answer the need for easier, faster, more accurate identification of relevant images.

 

The Direction Forward

You already know about real-time license plate scanners mounted on patrol cars that are able to automatically photograph license plates without operator involvement, transmit the scan to a central database, and return information in real time about wants and warrants associated with that vehicle.

What Taser and law enforcement say is quite close is a similar application using full time video from police-wearable cameras combined with facial recognition.  Once again those civil liberties questions will have to be answered but there’s no question that this application of data science will make policing more effective.

About those huge volumes of videos and the need to recognize faces and images.  There are plenty of startups that will benefit from this and many with products already in commercial introduction.  Here’s a sampling.

Take a look at Nervve Technologies whose byline is “Visual search insanely fast”.  Using their visual search technology originally developed for government spy agencies they are analyzing hours of sporting event tape in a few seconds to identify the number of times a sponsor’s logo (on uniforms or on billboards) actually appears in order to value the exposure for advertising.

And beyond simple facial recognition is an emerging field called facial or emotional analytics.  That’s right, from video these companies have developed deep learning models that predict how you are feeling or reacting. 

Stoneware incorporates image processing and emotional analytics in its classroom management products to judge the attentiveness of each student in a classroom.

Emotient and Affectiva have similar products in use by major CPG companies to evaluate audience response to advertisements, and to study how NBA spectators respond to activities such as a dance cam.

Real time facial-emotional scanning of crowds to find individuals most likely to commit misdeeds can’t be far away.

For audio, Beyond Verbal has a database of 1.5 million voices used to analyze vocal intonations to identify more than 300 mood variants in more than 40 languages with a claim of 80% accuracy.

All of these are deep learning based data science being put rapidly to work in our law enforcement and criminal justice systems.

 

 

About the author:  Bill Vorhies is Editorial Director for Data Science Central and has practiced as a data scientist and commercial predictive modeler since 2001.  He can be reached at:

[email protected]

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