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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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New IoT App Makes Drivers Safer

Transportation has become one of the most frequently highlighted areas where the internet of things can improve our lives. Specifically, a lot of people are excited about the IoT's potential to further the progress toward entire networks of self-driving cars. We hear a lot about the tech companies that are involved in building self-driving cars, but it's the IoT that will actually allow these vehicles to operate. In fact, CNET quoted one IoT expert just last year as saying that because of the expanding IoT, self-driving cars will rule the roads by 2030.

On a much smaller scale, there are also some niche applications of the IoT that are designed to fix specific problems on the road. For instance, many companies have looked to combat distracted driving by teenagers through IoT-related tools. As noted by PC World, one device called the Smartwheel monitors teens' driving activity by sensing when they're keeping both hands on the wheel. The device sounds an alert when a hand comes off the wheel and communicates to a companion app that compiles reports on driver performance. This is a subtle way in which the IoT helps young drivers develop better habits.

In a way, these examples cover both extremes of the effect the IoT is having on drivers. One is a futuristic idea that's being slowly implemented to alter the very nature of road transportation. The other is an application for individuals meant to make drivers safer one by one. But there are also some IoT-related tools that fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. One is an exciting new app that seeks to make the roads safer for the thousands of shipping fleet drivers operating on a daily basis.

At first this might sound like a niche category. However, the reality is that the innumerable companies and agencies relying shipping and transportation fleets have a ton of drivers to take care of. That means supervising vehicle performance, safety, and more for each and every one of them. That process comprises a significant portion of road activity, particularly in cities and on highways. These operations are able to be simplified and streamlined through Networkfleet Driver, which Verizon describes as a tool to help employees manage routes, maintenance, communication, and driving habits all in one place.

The app can communicate up-to-date routing changes or required stops, inform drivers of necessary vehicle repairs or upkeep, and handle communication from management. It can also make note of dangerous habits (like a tendency to speed or make frequent sudden stops), helping the driver to identify bad habits and helping managers to recommend safer performance. All of this is accomplished through various IoT sensors on vehicles interacting automatically with the app, and with systems that can be monitored by management.

The positive effect, while difficult to quantify, is substantial. Fleet drivers make up a significant portion of road activity, and through the use of the IoT we can make sure that the roads are safer for everyone.

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Upcoming IoT Events

6 things to avoid in transactional emails

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  You might think that once a sale has been made, or an email subscription confirmed, that your job is done. You’ve made the virtual handshake, you can have a well-earned coffee and sit down now right? Wrong! (You knew we were…

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