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The IoT is already shaping modern society in various ways. While many of these are positive aspects that result in streamlined communications, easier access to information and a greater quality of life, there are some major roadblocks in the push toward widespread IoT implementation.

One of the primary concerns revolves around the security of IoT-connected devices. A demonstration by Avast at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona recently uncovered a flaw in current-gen IoT infrastructure. Not only can they potentially gain control over tens of thousands of different devices, but they can also use the assembled processing power to mine $1,000 of cryptocurrency in a matter of days.

Identifying the Easiest Targets

Although Avast's demonstration didn't involve a full-scale replication, it underscores serious security flaws in the nature of current-gen IoT devices. If a widespread attack did occur, hackers would likely focus on the weakest targets.

Unsecured home networks are ideal for this sort of hack. As the average homeowner continues adding new smart-devices to the home, the hacker's job becomes even easier.

The task of hacking into thousands of unsecured home networks and taking over 15,000 or more devices might be insurmountable for a lone hacker, but a team of experts could readily pull it off and begin mining cryptocurrency without the owners' knowledge.

Some hackers might target small businesses or even larger corporations. As these networks easily contain the necessary number of IoT-connected devices, an individual could quickly gain control over thousands of different systems.

Mining, in this context, is a process of verifying transactions across a cryptocurrency-backed network. Cryptocurrency miners use various tools — including hardware and software utilities — to solve sophisticated mathematical algorithms and, as a result, generate digital monies that are tradable for real-world goods or cash.

Since coins are often used for nefarious or downright illegal activities, hackers try to use the accounts of unsuspecting victims whenever possible to maintain anonymity and cover their tracks.

Many popular coins, like Bitcoin, require advanced hardware that’s available in current-gen smart-devices. But other cryptocurrencies, like Monero, are made to harness the power of many individual machines simultaneously.

Similar Incidents in the News

A flaw like this isn't the first time that IoT-connected devices have been proven vulnerable to hacking. As reported by IBM X Force, a revised version of the Mirai botnet is programmed to take over a device and mine cryptocurrency via Linux.

Mirai is disheartening to security experts. It was the botnet responsible for a 2016 DDoS attack that caused massive service outages on sites like Netflix, Reddit, GitHub, Twitter and more.

According to a statement released by IBM X Force, the botnet gains entry into a system via the BusyBox program on Linux-based machines. Considering that Linux runs some of the largest and most popular websites, operating systems and software packages, the potential for exploitation is very serious.

Fighting Back

Fortunately, you can take some steps to secure your network from outside threats — including the latest botnet hacks. Always make sure your devices are on a secure network and protected behind a strong password.

Update your hardware with the latest updates as soon as they're available from the manufacturer, and use software protection — like antivirus and anti-malware utilities — on smartphones, tablets, laptops and desktop computers.

To make the job even harder for would-be hackers, avoid connecting to public Wi-Fi whenever possible. Never keep your personal devices on the same network as your primary desktop or laptop, as this makes it easier for cyber-criminals to jump from one system to another.

Finally, make sure to change the default login credentials on any new device you add to the network. Many come with generic information that is easily exploited.

How the MWC Is Protecting Our Networks

The Mobile World Congress — dubbed the "world's largest gathering for the mobile industry" — is organized by the GSM Association. Sometimes known as the Global System for Mobile Communications or simply "the GSMA," the organization began hosting events in 1987. It remains the largest conference in the mobile industry, and it continues to highlight new security flaws and solutions — including problems with IoT connectivity — to this day.

Stay up to date with the trends of these devices and activity surrounding them, and you’ll have a better shot at fighting back against hackers.

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One of my LinkedIn contacts suggested me last year not to write more articles about MWC event. However, a couple of weeks ago talking with another contact that not attend this year told me he was expecting my article. So here it is, my fourth MWC article in a row since 2015. Am I a MWC addictYou can read previous articles here:

Unfortunately, the Powerful GSMA rejected my ticket request as Analyst / Press (LinkedIn please help me next year) and of course I did not pay the prohibitive prices of Silver Pass, Gold Pass and Platinum Pass. At the end, conference sessions content is very generic and I can read free the content. I cannot justify the ROI for pay these tickets. Can you?

Avoiding the politics issues between Catalonia and Spain, it was the first MWC where the snow was probably the biggest surprise of the show. The snow and the rain did not allowed visitors to spend some time outside.

A painI do not know the final numbers, but I notice this year less attendants than 2017. No doubt GSMA will try to find excuses eg, political issues, but the reality is that the cost of the show do not convince to many usual large / medium / small companies. It is a fact that some big companies did not attend or send less delegates and use less square meters

Again, visitors that attend 1 or 2 days do not have had time to move to other parallel events like 4YFN.  Running from meeting to meeting, bad lunch as usual. I'm sure I've lost weight these days

The MWC18 has been an evolution of what we saw last 2 years. Not revolution. We need to wait another 5 years to see some notorious technological advances although GSMA should continue helping to create a better future

Before #MWC18

I was angry with the Search exhibitor page of the web . Please GSMA you have 1 year to improve. None exhibitor has included any product in the category of Blockchain or Internet of Things. Duplicates filters, etc. I read some LinkedIn post and articles and talked with people to plan my visit and capture their feeling this year.

During the #MWC18

The euphoria of 5G has dropped – More info about 5G at MWC18 here “ Intel, Qualcomm Talk About Accelerating 5G Efforts at MWC 2018 

IoT - The word that describes my feeling is disappointment. Although expected, something sad because the word IoT begins to lose brightness and disappear from the stands. The Pavillion 8.0 dedicated to the IoT, was not star this year. Do you really deserve to be exhibitors at the MWC

At least it was good to pulse the evolution and transformation of the IoT / M2M market. A new impulse will be necessary before 2020

Unfortunately, I could not attend any of the Top 7 IoT Activities at Mobile World Congress. Please tell me if any of it was worth it.

It was funny to hear how Operators trying to explain the use cases of Blockchain in Telco sector.

Artificial Intelligence, Connected Vehicles and Robots the starts of MWC18.  It was interesting discuss with some Operators about the practical potential of Machine learning, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Robots in this sector.  The conclusion in this article “ You Can't Teach an AI to Run a Telecom Network—Yet.

MWC18 was in my opinion the year of the Connected Intelligent Vehicle. Operators, Technology Vendors and Car Manufacturers need to cooperate to avoid a technology nightmare for future drivers/passengers.   

After #MWC18

I cannot resist to compare this congress with the Groundhog Day festivities. I make no secret of my discomfort for the continuous decisions of GSMA to make this show useless for many. My unpleasantness for the prohibitive cost of the tickets, hotels in the town, and the arrogant executives who attend the event as movie stars and finally for the many parallel events that I have missed or meetings of 15 minutes because I had spent hours daily walking by the walk sides of Fira Halls and my frustration for not finding some companies in the labyrinth of  the pavilions

Like Bill Murray in the movie, I discover year after year that MWC's events repeating almost exactly. I feel I am trapped in a time loop that probably most of you are aware of

I am glad if you have spent these days indulging in night parties, looking for new jobs or cheering you for the work you have in your great company.  Luckily for me, I do not return depressed, but my mind do not escape for some days to the MWC loop. Am I a MWC addict?

See you next year at MWC19 Barcelona

 

Thanks for your Comments and Likes

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Connected Cars: From the Edge to the Cloud

Many of us have yet to see an autonomous vehicle driving down the road, but it will be here faster than we can image. The car of tomorrow is connected, data-rich and autonomous. As 5G networks come online, sensors improve and compute and memory become faster and cheaper, the amount of data a vehicle will generate is expected to be 40 terabytes of data every day. This will make the autonomous vehicle the ultimate edge computing device.

Last week at Mobile World Congress Americas in San Francisco, Micron Technology hosted a panel discussion with automotive industry experts where they discussed the future of the connected car and the role of both the cloud and the edge in delivering the full promise of autonomous driving (FYI – Cars are now big at wireless trade shows. See Connected Vehicle Summit at MWC).

Experts from Micron, NVIDIA, Microsoft and Qualcomm discussed what 5G, cloud, IoT and edge analytics will mean for next-generation compute models and the automobile.

Micron claims to be the #1 memory supplier to the automotive industry and notes that its technology will be required to access the massive streams of data from vehicles. This data must be processed and analyzed, both in the car and in the cloud. Think about going down the road at 70 MPH in an autonomous vehicle. You need to have safe, secure and highly-responsive solutions, relying on split second decisions powered by enormous amounts of data. To quickly analyze the data necessary for future autonomous vehicles, higher bandwidth memory and storage solutions are required.

Smart, connected vehicles are the poster child for edge computing and IoT.

Some intriguing quotes from the discussion:

  • “In last seven years 5839 patents have been granted for autonomous vehicle technology.” – Steve Brown, Moderator and Futurist
  • “There is a proactive side of autonomous driving that can’t be fulfilled at the edge.” Doug Seven, Head of Connected Vehicle Platform, Microsoft
  • “The thin client model won’t work for automobiles. You won’t have connectivity all the time.” Steve Pawlowski, Vice President Advanced Computing Solutions, Micron
  • “Once you have enough autonomous vehicles, the humans are the danger.” Tim Wong, Director of Technical Program Management for Autonomous Vehicles, NVIDIA

The entire panel discussion can be found in the video below.

Disclaimer: The author of this post has a paid consulting relationship with Micron Technology. 

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Interview: 5G, IoT and Hurricanes

Last week more than 21,000 visitors from 110 countries and territories attended the 2017 Mobile World Congress Americas in San Francisco. It was the first for MWC in the United States, having recently gone into a partnership with CTIA to up the appeal of the long-time wireless tradeshow. We were introduced to Advanced RF Technologies (ADRF) and discussed the the transition to 5G, IoT and hurricanes with ADRF Chief Operating Officer Arnold Kim. 

For our readers who are not familiar with your company, tell us about ADRF?

Advanced RF Technologies (ADRF) is a Top 5 Distributed Antenna System (DAS) provider. We've been operating for more than 18 years and provide in-building wireless connectivity solutions to improve cellular signal and data speeds when there is either a lot of people in one area, or the building infrastructure doesn't allow frequencies to enter unobstructed from the macro network. Our products include DAS, small cells, antennas and passive components.

What industries are adopting your technology?

Every industry needs better connectivity inside of their buildings, so we have clients from many different verticals. We work with all four major carriers (Sprint, Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile) and our products are currently in most of the Fortune 100 company buildings, many high profile sports stadiums, commercial real estate, healthcare, and more. We also do plenty of Public Safety installations. 

Device types continue to proliferate - no longer is it a type of mobile phone. How do you advise customers on what types of frequencies and standards to implement?

Most companies have an understanding of what their connectivity needs are. However our approach is to offer flexible and future-proof solutions that will grow with our clients. We try to ensure that our clients will never need to do a full refresh on their investment.

From a connectivity perspective, what are some of the near term challenges for IoT?

The biggest challenges we see regarding the IoT has to do with the sheer volume of devices taking a bandwidth on a network. If you think about a sports stadium and trying to connect 50,000 people, network density quickly becomes a challenge. For large enterprises the number of devices connected and the challenges can be just as large. There's a wide range of devices that will be connected that don't necessarily need a 5G connection. For instance, a connected oil pipe simply needs to send signal that things are working correctly or not. This can be accomplished using a 3G signal, on a low frequency band (which travels more effectively that a 5G signal on a high band might). In areas where the is limited connectivity, this is an important thing to consider.

It’s still early days, but how are you tackling the transition from 4G to 5G?

While the definition of 5G has yet to be settled, we are prepared for it, and those who have our systems in place will be too. Our new ADX V series DAS is modular and works with every type of frequency. When 5G becomes standard, whatever frequency may be adopted by each carrier to run the signal will be compatible with our equipment. At MWC America, we are announcing new Head End and Remote Modules for ADX V to support 600 MHz, the frequency that T-mobile plans to use exclusively for 5G. Not many DAS solutions today support it.

Let’s turn our attention to current events. Hurricane Harvey and the floods it caused in Houston. What role does ADRF play in public safety and how do you support response teams when critical infrastructure comes down?

ADRF performs a lot of public safety installations and we were one of the first companies to be FirstNet compliant. As an example, we recently installed two public safety DAS in the new Atlanta Braves stadium. Dense areas and public venues are mostly required by law to have complete, uninterrupted connection at all times. We provide the systems that allow for that. We have also introduced a series of mobile repeaters that can be implemented in crisis situations as well as outdoor venues where concerts are taking place.

Another example is Hurricane Sandy, a Category 3 major hurricane which affected coastal Mid-Atlantic states in 2012.Verizon deployed CROW (Cellular Repeater on Wheels) help provide interim emergency communications. CROWs are low cost, portable, over the air (which doesn’t requires backhaul) and can be used to provide expanded cellular network coverage or capacity. 

What's the most interesting implementation you've done? Why?

We were selected to make the happiest place on earth one of the best connected. Around Disney World parks, we put in a series of repeaters to provide better coverage and let families share their adventures. One of the important parts of the installation, especially in crowded venues where aesthetic is of the utmost importance, is to make sure equipment is concealed and hidden. Locating those areas when thousands of people are walking the entirety of the park every single day was a challenge.

Anything else you’d like to add?

We announced a new high power outdoor modular repeater at Mobile World Congress Americas, and while it’s intended purpose is to improve cellular connection in outdoor areas, it will be beneficial for IoT connectivity as more people become reliant on having these connections everywhere. Our products support every frequency including those that will be used for 5G, and the 3G and 4G that powers IoT connections. The importance of having blanket coverage for IoT cannot be understated, especially as more important devices become connected in the future.

 

 

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Mobile World Congress and the Pain in Spain

As Mobile World Congress kicks off in Barcelona this week, Avast, a security company, has a warning for the citizens of Spain: There are over 5 million vulnerable IoT devices across the country.

Now this of course is meant to grab attention at a very noisy show, and any connected country has parity with Spain I'm sure, but nonetheless, the experiment conducted by Avast is worth a look. The findings identified more than 493,000 smart devices in Barcelona and 5.3 million in Spain overall – including smart kettles, coffee machines, garage doors, fridges, thermostats and other IP-connected devices – that are connected to the internet and vulnerable to attacks.

The experiment found:  

  • Over 5.3 million vulnerable smart devices – including webcams and baby monitors – in Spain, and more than 493,000 in Barcelona alone
  • More than 150,000 hackable webcams in Spain and more than 22,000 in Barcelona
  • More than 79,000 vulnerable smart kettles and coffee machines in Spain
  • More than 444,000 devices in Spain using the Telnet network protocol, which is a type of protocol that has been abused to create the Mirai botnet which attacked Dyn in 2016, leading to the crash of Internet sites like Twitter, Amazon, Reddit, etc.

Conducted in partnership with IoT search engine specialists Shodan.io, the experiment proves just how easy it is for anyone - including cybercriminals - to scan IP addresses and ports over the Internet and classify what device is on each IP address. And, with a little extra effort and know-how, hackers can also find out the type of device (webcam, printer, smart kettle, fridge and so on), brand, model and the version of software it is running.

"With databases of commonly known device vulnerabilities publicly available, it doesn’t take a vast amount of effort and knowledge for cybercriminals to connect the dots and find out which devices are vulnerable,” said Vince Steckler, CEO at Avast. “And even if the devices are password protected, hackers often gain access by trying out the most common usernames and passwords until they crack it.”

The company says users need to contribute to making the online world a safer place by keeping software updated and choosing strong, complex passwords. Unfortunately, that is not going to happen, by either the consumer or the manufacturer.  As we've reported before, the real answer is this.

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The Internet of Things at Mobile World Congress

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Photo Credit: GSMA

And so it begins, Mobile World Congress 2016, the annual confab in Barcelona where the telecommunications industry goes to beach themselves for a week.

As with any big event, day one kicks off with a flurry of announcements. Announced today are a bevy of new smartphones, 5G networks as the new frontier, and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg making a surprise appearance to talk about virtual reality at Samsung’s event where they showed off Samsung Gear 360 which allows you to make your own virtual reality video with a 360 degree camera.

But what of IoT?  Here’s a rundown:

  • In a sign of the future and the importance of the subject, the organizers of MWC introduced for the first time this year the Internet of Things (IoT) Pavilion.

  • The organizing body of the show, GSMA, is introducing the Mobile IoT Initiative which has the first live demonstrations of Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) solutions in licensed spectrum. Visitors will experience a diverse range of solutions underpinned by three complementary technology standards known as Narrow Band IoT (NB-IoT), Extended Coverage EGPRS (EC-EGPRS) and LTE Machine Type Communication (Cat-M). The Mobile IoT Initiative is supported by 30 of the world’s leading mobile operators, OEMs, chipset, module and infrastructure companies.

  • The organizing body will also showcase several IOT innovations including a “Mobile IoT Vineyard” that shows how mobile technology is helping to keep grapevines and wine stocks at optimum levels.

  • Global M2M Association (GMA) - The GMA will showcase a live demonstration of its Multi-Domestic Service, an innovative global M2M connectivity management solution that significantly simplifies the global deployment, management and operations of M2M and IoT services for large enterprises.

  • Continuing it’s march on leading IoT, Samsung moved forward on advancing their Open IoT Ecosystem with a new partner program and commercial availability of the SAMSUNG ARTIK™ Platform. Samsung’s new Certified ARTIK Partner Program is designed to help developers and companies jump start their development and take their ideas to market faster by working with carefully selected professional service providers and design houses.

  • GE also made an announcement to grow its partner base and expand its Predix platform footprint with the GE Digital Alliance Program. The company says that this is the first ever program dedicated to growing the digital industrial ecosystem. This new alliance program is designed to connect systems integrators, telecommunications service providers, independent software vendors, technology providers and resellers with the technology and digital industrial expertise of GE. GE alliance members will be able to train and certify their developers and begin building industrial apps with Predix, GE’s cloud platform for the Industrial Internet.

  • Visa Inc. announced that it is expanding its Visa Ready program to include Internet of Things (IoT) companies, such as manufacturers of wearables, automobiles, appliances, public transportation services, clothing and almost any other connected device. The Visa Ready Program for IoT will allow emerging IoT companies to join with mobile device manufacturers to evaluate, develop and potentially adopt new payment methods that are already approved by Visa, and can help financial institutions and merchants drive growth by expanding the use and acceptance of electronic payments globally.

  • AT&T will showcase its capabilities as a global integrated provider helping millions around the world connect with leading entertainment, mobile, high-speed Internet and Internet of Things (IoT) solutions. Inside the GSMA Innovation City, visitors will be guided around AT&T solutions that connect consumers and businesses, including AT&T IoT solutions such as connected car, smart cities and real-life industrial IoT use cases.

  • Recently acquired Jasper will be demonstrating how leading enterprises are using its global IoT service platform to drive real-time business transformation, add value for customers and secure their share of the multi-billion dollar IoT market.

  • Sierra Wireless, with partners Axis, Parkeon and Valeo, will showcase its latest innovative solutions in scenarios including how connected parking meters can become multi-service kiosks and enable services such as couponing, city news updates and payment of parking fines.

If you’re at #MWC2016, leave us a comment and let us know what we missed in the IoT buzz.

 

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Photo Credit: GSMA

 

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