Thursday, 25 August 2016

Internet of Things -- a little person on your shoulder

You hear a lot of people talking about how great life will be when cars drive themselves and the Internet of Things is fully deployed. But while many of us dismiss this chatter as background noise, one industry is paying close attention and champing at the bit to get started.

Yes, of course, it's the advertising industry. After all, when cars drive themselves, you'll have more time to look at the ads that will be popping up on strategically located screens. Your refrigerator will automatically order almond milk, egg whites, and fat-free butter while it tries to get you to try a new kind of genetically engineered hot dog.

Right at the moment, the advertising trades are obsessing over self-driving taxis and dreaming of the contextual ad possibilities they present.


Or as Hewitt put it in his interview with the Daily:

“Not too far into the future the ads will be contextually presented and may also be served up as bite-sized services instead of just targeted display advertising.”

If everything works out as planned, it will be just like having a little person on your shoulder, constantly nagging you to do all the things your favorite brands want you to do.

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The Internet Of Things? What Things?

For those of us Boomers who have witnessed first hand the invention, application, proliferation and ultimately the world domination of the Internet, it might all seem like sort of a blur.

Doesn’t it feel like just yesterday that the nerdy guy in your office barged into your cubicle, took control of your IBM PC or Compaq or maybe even your Mac SE, and logged onto NetScape?

“This is the future of computing,” he might have said as you studied the awkwardly formatted text slowly rendering across your screen. I remember my reaction:

“Bull pucky! Where’s the sound, the music, the voice-over, the animated graphics, the color photos, the video windows?”

It must have been around 1994, and multimedia on CD-ROM, created in a popular authoring tool called MacroMind Director, was all the rage. How could the snail-paced, text-based content delivered on the NetScape browser over the World Wide Web possibly supplant the showbiz content we could deliver on CD-ROM?


Some of us, regardless of the breadth or our attack surface and whether or not we like adjusting the temperature of our refrigerator from the golf course, are donning an extra layer of protection in the form of a Virtual Private Network (VPN). This service allows us to encrypt the data that travels from our devices to our Internet service provider. Corporations have employed them for years, which is what our corporate friends are talking about when they refer to information “behind the firewall.” VPNs aren’t a guarantee of complete safety, but they make our data more difficult to hack.

The net-net of it all: if we want to keep something private we’d better keep it offline, to the extent that we can. It may be a little more difficult to teach our kids, and especially our grandkids, about things like 35mm film, padlocks with real keys, checkbooks and other rapidly disappearing devices of the analog age.

Who ever would have thought that so much havoc could be wreaked with a bunch of zeros and ones?

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Thursday, 18 August 2016

The 'Internet of Things' Is More Hype Than Reality for Many Tech Giants

As is the case with several other popular tech buzzphrases -- "big data," "cloud computing" and "cybersecurity" come to mind -- dozens of companies have talked up their investments in what they deem to be the "Internet of Things," or IoT. Big-name chipmakers, telecom service providers and cloud service providers all fit the bill here. But a look at just how much IoT exposure these companies have often shows that hype far exceeds reality.


Second, Gartner expects about two-thirds of the connected things that will be in existence in 2020 -- 13.5 billion -- to be consumer devices. This appears to include smartphones and tablets, and broadly contains a number of products that aren't likely to fuel major growth for telecom or cloud service providers angling to profit from a surge in the number of connected devices.

Welcome To Privacy Hell, Also Known As The Internet Of Things

Talk to Josh Corman long enough and the beeps and blinks of the Internet of Things (IoT) devices that increasingly dot our world take on a terrifying shape.

"There are more devices and more types of devices, so this just gives you more ways for people to track you or hurt you," Corman, a long-time security expert and cofounder of I Am The Cavalry, says. "What we've done is blindly assume that [adding software and connectivity] is always good. And we're making really horrible, horrible choices."

Corman founded IATC—a cybersecurity research non-profit focused on reducing IoT-related public safety risks—with security researcher Nick Percoco at a 2013 hacker conference. Medical devices are a big area of concern for Corman and his group. Besides vulnerable insulin pumps and pacemakers, hacker-researchers have shown high-tech hospital equipment—from Bluetooth-enabled defibrillators to remotely controlled drug infusion drips—could be manipulated toward grievous, even deadly, ends. IATC is also keeping an eye on connected cars, home security and automation systems and "smart" public infrastructure, like utility grids and traffic control.


"The majority of the security industry has been focused on private sector, protecting a bank or credit cards," points out Corman. As software started springing up in insulin pumps and cars, he became more concerned. "I’m thinking, 'Guys, we can’t even secure credit cards with $80 billion of our best and brightest—why are we putting dependencies in areas that can kill people?'"

Through IATC, Corman and a network of volunteer cybersecurity experts and whitehat hackers have developed a five-point list of standards for connected cars and have started collaborating with the Society of Automotive Engineers. He plans to release similar guidelines for other "life and limb" applications of the technology, including medical devices and public infrastructure.

But security remains an optional pursuit for manufacturers. "IoT technologies in general don’t have good security," says Susan Landau, faculty member at Worcester Polytechnic Institute and a distinguished scholar on cybersecurity and privacy issues. "There are no legal frameworks that demand good security. We’re racing ahead yet again without putting the security and privacy in."


Tien suggests that the fact that the well-meaning motivation that powers data collection in public places—for "smart city" initiatives, for example—helps normalize the Big Brother-esque creepiness of Big Data.

"There is a real attraction to what I would call dangerous surveillance practices when those practices are aimed at people and their everyday lives and trying to solve urban problems," he says. "If you associate the surveillance with Dick Cheney it’s bad; if you associate the surveillance with Bill de Blasio that is another thing."


President Obama’s administration has taken up cybersecurity as a national safety and security issue with a recent push to enlist the help of private industry. In January, Obama proposed legislation that would help shield companies that share online-threat data with the government from lawsuits, and last month he signed an executive order that urges (but does not require) companies to share information on cybersecurity threats more broadly, in the interest of improving threat protection systems.


Corman and other experts agree that the FTC’s broad recommendations for IoT manufacturers—build security in at the outset, implement lifecycle monitoring, train employees in security—are on the right track. But with the industry consigned to self-regulation for now, the current growing pains of data, security, and privacy within the IoT are likely to persist.

"We’ve moved into a completely new world," says Landau. "We are facing massive losses of privacy and, until we learn how to operate in it—we, the public, and we, the government—getting protection for it is going to be awkward. Or more than awkward."

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5 steps to cybersecurity for Internet of Things medical devices

The healthcare industry is plagued with data breaches and other cybersecurity nightmares. At the same time, connected medical devices – components of the so-called Internet of Things – are multiplying, opening more holes in security and creating terrible potential for patient casualties.

Without doubt, unsecured medical devices currently are putting hospitals and patients at risk, according to “Healthcare’s IoT Dilemma: Connected Medical Devices,” a new report from Forrester Research analyst Chris Sherman.

“You have less control over connected medical devices than any other aspect of your technology environment,” the report said. “Many times, vendors control patch and update cycles, and vulnerabilities persist that require segmentation from your network. Considering that many of these devices are in direct contact with patients, this is a major cause for concern.”

Additionally, medical devices are vulnerable to four attack scenarios, the report said. “Threats against medical devices include denial-of-service (DoS), patient data theft, therapy manipulation and asset destruction,” the report said. “Each represents risk to your organization, with DoS currently being the most severe.”


1. Categorize existing devices based on risk.

Once an organization places a device on a network, it becomes part of a connected system. Websites like Shodan (“The search engine for the Internet of Things”) expose thousands of searchable end-points around the world that lack security and/or use default passwords.

“There are five key factors that contribute to the risk rating of any medical device: Potential impact to patient safety; Network connectivity; Data sensitivity; Likelihood of attack; and Vendor security SLA,” the report said. “For starters, use industry risk assessment guidelines, standards and expertise. The Medical Device Innovation, Safety and Security Consortium (MDISS) provides a space for industry leaders to collaborate and exchange ideas; the National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence (NCCoE), established by the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST), released its first cybersecurity practice guide last year called ‘Securing Electronic Health Records on Mobile Devices’; and Forrester Research’s Medical Device-Risk Heat Map can help categorize devices based on risk.”

2. Implement a clinical risk management framework.

The International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), for example, publishes voluntary standards across various technology industries.


3. Ensure that your organization follows basic security hygiene.

Forrester Research reported that the vast majority of healthcare breaches in the past few years were due to social engineering and spear-phishing attacks. These problems have known solutions, but these solutions often demand a major cultural change by an organization.


4. Include security requirements in new device requests for proposals and contract language.

Medical device manufacturers generally are not required to include security controls on their devices nor provide guidance to their customers on how to protect devices. But healthcare organizations, as potential customers, have the power to get manufacturers to do so.


5. Apply a zero trust networking architecture.


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Monday, 15 August 2016

Olympians Go For The Gold With Help From The Internet Of Things

The world’s best athletes are currently on display at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil, and some are using wearable technology powered by the Internet of Things to help them go for the gold.

United States sprinter Allyson Felix has reached Olympic glory already, taking home gold medals in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing and the 2012 Olympics in London, but she is still looking for a leg-up on her competition. According to a report from The Huffington Post, she is just one of several athletes embracing wearable IoT technology as they look to improve their training and boost their performance in the games.

Felix trained for her upcoming track-and-field events with a pair of 3D-printed shoes designed specifically for her feet. The sneakers not only conform perfectly to her foot but provide Felix with feedback on her performance.


It’s not just American athletes, as South African track-and-field star Willem Coertzen trained for Rio using a Hexoskin smart shirt. The shirt, like the Solos eyewear, can measure information like heart rate, speed, breathing patterns and other biometric indicators.

Wearable technology is having a significant impact on the space, as can be seen in the Internet of Things Tracker. The latest tracker features several news stories about companies investing in wearable technology in products ranging from speakers to athletic gear.

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When banking meets the Internet of Things

The Internet of Things may just hold the key to the future of banking, says Jacqueline Guichelaar, head of infrastructure and service delivery for Lloyds Banking Group. With the topic of transformation dominating banking industry conversations amid the race towards a digital future, it’s clear that the Internet of Things is driving that change.

The status quo simply cannot continue and the major new force that is IoT is serving to transform the industry from the inside out, pushed by the twin drivers of heightened customer and regulatory demand.


The Internet of Things enables a whole new level of personalised banking - indeed, the possibility of branches becoming equipped with sensing technology that can recognise customers as they walk in and respond to their own particular needs suddenly becomes a tantalising reality.


Hand-in-hand with the likes of the cloud and big data, IoT is set to be implemented on a massive scale, creating major new business opportunities as we continue to embrace a world that’s connected like never before. It could even serve to be the differentiator that separates the winners from the losers in the race for true banking innovation.

Change is now a must - and IoT is set to be the key competitive advantage that helps tomorrow’s market leaders set the pace.

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