15 posts categorized "Internet of Things"

03/31/2015

IBM’s $3 Billion Stake into IoT: A Low-Risk Gamble

IBM has announced it is establishing a new Internet of Things business unit with more than 2,000 consultants, researchers, and developers, and will invest $3 billion in it over the next four years. Three business areas are being highlighted:

  • IoT Open Cloud Platform for Industries – vertical market oriented big data analytics services
  • Bluemix IoT Zone – expansion of IBM’s platform-as-a-service to improve development and deployment of IoT apps
  • IoT Ecosystem – additional partners for secure integration of IoT data and services (existing partners include AT&T and ARM)

(We won’t rehash all the details of the announcement, which you can read here.) Ibm_logo

VDC finds this IBM initiative particularly noteworthy, for several reasons:

  • By establishing a dedicated IoT group, IBM is putting in place structures to speed both technical and business development targeting IoT. It will be interesting to see how the unit: a) navigates a complex weave of horizontal and vertical technologies and markets; and b) intersects and overlaps (and perhaps clashes or not) with IBM’s enterprise IT services.
  • By announcing the size of its investment up front, IBM is communicating the degree of its commitment to IoT. However, considering the amounts of money being spent collectively by other major companies claiming turf in the IoT (Cisco, GE, Google, Intel, etc.), significant mid-size participants (e.g. ARM, PTC), and hundreds of minor players and wannabees, $3 billion might only equate to table stakes necessary to reserve a seat at the high rollers’ table.
  • IBM’s announcement makes no mention of any external investments, i.e. acquisitions or startup funding. Since the year 2000, IBM has acquired more than 125 companies, including more than a dozen for which the price exceeded $1 billion, so we have little doubt that IoT-related acquisitions are in the offing.
  • Unlike Google’s $3.2 billion acquisition of Nest, which has modest short term but substantial long term potential, IBM’s $3 billion to scale up and expand its existing IoT capabilities can go a long way to generating real IoT revenue in the short term. While most consumers are yet to be convinced of the need for a “smart home” (unaware that their cable TV boxes and electric meters are already part of the IoT), enterprises are already seeing the benefits of the IoT on many levels, including customer satisfaction, recurring revenue, cost savings on service parts and labor, and product refinement. Considering IBM’s position in the IT industry, $3 billion seems like a low risk bet.

To look at it another way: as IoT becomes further integrated into day-to-day business IT and operations, what would have been IBM’s risk if it didn’t invest big money in IoT?

03/12/2015

Will Patents Hinder IoT Openness?

Coined by Kevin Ashton in 1999, the term “Internet of Things” (IoT) has only recently become a widespread concept. Use of the term began its slow emergence from the tech world in 2003-2004 when popular publications like The Guardian and Scientific American wrote articles on IoT. However, based on Google Trends, interest by tech companies and the public began rising around 2009 with a dramatic increase in 2013, a year filled with smart home appliances and tech giants’ connected device innovations.

To delve more into the increasing interest in the Internet of Things, VDC conducted an analysis of U.S. patent applications and patent awards specifically mentioning “Internet of Things” or “IoT.” In the chart below, the green line represents the number of IoT-specific U.S. patent applications, and the purple line represents the number of IoT-specific patents awarded. (Note that the average award of a U.S. patent takes more than two years from its date of application.)

IoT Patent Chart
Not only is “Internet of Things” being mentioned in more patent applications, but more applications mentioning IoT are also being awarded patents. A peak number of patents mentioning IoT were awarded in the most recent quarter, 2014Q4, and an increase to this peak is nearly certain in 2015.

Undoubtedly there are many more patent applications and awards related to IoT that don’t specifically mention the term in their filing documents. However, the small but growing use of the term in patents, as shown in the chart, is an indicator that we are just at the leading edge of what is likely to become a large wave of IoT-oriented patents.

While earlier IoT technologies and communication methods were often openly published, many IoT methods are now being retained as intellectual property through patents. Examples include, “Internet of Things Lawful Interception” (application #20130057388), “Methods, devices and systems for establishing end-to-end secure connections and for securely communicating data packets” (application #20140143855), and “Mobile communications devices and transmission methods for transmitting machine type communication data thereof “(patent #8,681,701).

Of course there is a fine balance between the stimulation of innovation via openness vs. the economic incentive of owning intellectual property, but increased patenting of IoT communications techniques could adversely impact the future structure of the IoT, making it less open. On the other hand, the increasing number of IoT patents might merely reflect the spread of the term’s marketing buzz. In either case, navigating a plethora of IoT patents is likely to increase development burden and possibly hinder product introductions for nascent IoT companies.

This post was researched and written by VDC intern Jamie Yang, with assistance from Steve Hoffenberg.

01/22/2015

QNX Ex-Owner Harman International Acquires Red Bend Software

HarmanLogo

Harman International is best known as an audio electronics maker, owning numerous brand names targeting consumers and professionals, including AKG, Crown, dbx, Harman Kardon, Infinity, JBL, Lexicon, Mark Levinson, and Revel. As old-school “car stereos” have evolved in recent years into multifunction “infotainment systems,” Harman has also become a major player in automotive electronics.

Red_Bend_Logo_HorizontalOn January 22, Harman announced its acquisition for $170 million of Red Bend Software, which is the leading provider of software and services for Firmware Over The Air (FOTA) updating for mobile devices and automobiles. (See press release here.) Harman simultaneously announced its acquisition of software services firm Symphony Teleca, although Red Bend has more interesting implications for IoT.

QNXBack in 2004, Harman had acquired for $138 million QNX Software Systems, developer of the real-time operating system QNX Neutrino, as well as a number of other embedded software solutions which have since become especially popular in the automotive market. Fast forward to 2010 when Harman sold off QNX for $200 million to Research In Motion (RIM, since re-named Blackberry Limited for its line of mobile phones). At the time, Harman said about its sale of QNX, “This move allows Harman to continue its relationship with QNX and the advanced software solutions it provides to Harman and our customers. At the same time, this deal achieves value for all stakeholders and is an important step in a new strengthened relationship with RIM.”

Perhaps Harman’s sale of QNX was influenced by economic conditions during the Great Recession, but it leads us back to Harman’s acquisition of Red Bend, and it raises a few questions:

  • Would Harman have been able to leverage synergy between Red Bend and QNX in the automotive market if it had retained ownership of both? If not, why not? If so, might the value of such synergy have outweighed the gains realized by selling QNX?

  • What value does Harman now see in Red Bend that it no longer saw in QNX?

  • Considering that much of Red Bend’s current business is in the mobile phone industry, does Harman view Red Bend as a stepping stone into that market?

  • What would it take for Harman to believe that a potential future sale of Red Bend might “achieve value” for stakeholders and produce “a new strengthened relationship”?

We‘ll leave these questions for readers to ponder for themselves

01/21/2015

Cybersecurity, Politics, and the State of the Union

Even before President Obama’s State of the Union address on January 20th, The White House was touting new cybersecurity initiatives that would be mentioned in the address. Indeed, during his speech, President Obama told a nationwide (and worldwide) TV audience, “To stay one step ahead of our adversaries, I have already sent this Congress legislation that will secure our country from the growing danger of cyber-threats.” This is the first time that the topic of cybersecurity has received such high profile political exposure in the State of the Union, and given the increasing sophistication of hackers, it likely won’t be the last. Cybersecurity is now an integral component of national security. (The complete State of the Union address is available at www.whitehouse.gov/sotu.)

The legislative proposal that the President had already sent to Congress was outlined in a press release on January 13th. It included three main components:

  • Enabling Cybersecurity Information Sharing – to foster collaboration between private and public sectors on cybersecurity, as well as enhance some privacy aspects of consumer data collection and usage.
  • Modernizing Law Enforcement Authorities to Combat Cyber Crime – to bolster efforts to find, disrupt, and prosecute hackers.
  • National Data Breach Reporting – to put in place national requirements for disclosing data breaches to employees and customers.

In addition, the Obama administration is clearly committed to keeping cyber-security on the front burner, with a Summit on Cybersecurity and Consumer Protection to be held at Stanford University on February 13th.

VDC’s opinion is that the legislative proposal, even if it is adopted into law (which isn’t a given in the Republican-controlled Congress), doesn’t go far enough. Perhaps no U.S. law could possibly go far enough, because most hackers operate outside of U.S. territory. Cyberspace isn’t constrained by geographic borders, and some nation-states (including the U.S.) are themselves occasional perpetrators.

In our view, true cybersecurity will require improved technology to reduce cyber-vulnerabilities, as well as international treaties or agreements that dramatically improve abilities to find, thwart, and prosecute hackers worldwide. The White House has already announced the first such agreement with the United Kingdom. We have no doubt that other U.S. allies, such as in the European Union, will follow suit. But the real challenge will be gaining participation from rogue nations or others which are not U.S. allies. Russia and Eastern Europe appear to be the sources of many organized hacker groups. Russia, now suffering economically with low oil prices and U.S. and E.U. sanctions over its invasion of Crimea, isn’t likely to cooperate any time soon. Don't expect North Korea to pitch in during the lifetime of Kim Jong-un (irrespective of whether or not that country was behind the massive Sony Pictures breach of 2014). And China may espouse cooperation while practicing coopetition.

In short, we’re not holding our breath for a worldwide cybersecurity group hug.

For now, our advice to The White House is to start by cleaning up the security of its own website. When we pointed our browser to www.whitehouse.gov the morning after the State of the Union address, up popped the error message, “Internet Explorer blocked this website from displaying content with security certificate errors.” (See screen shot below.) A facepalm is in order.

WhiteHouse.gov certificate errors

01/14/2015

VDC Research is attending Embedded World 2015!

Contact us ASAP to schedule a meeting

VDC will be making the trip across the Atlantic again this year to visit the largest embedded technology tradeshow of the year, Embedded World in Nuremberg, Germany. Last year, the conference boasted 26,700 visitors and 856 exhibiting companies!.

While we are at the conference, we welcome the opportunity to meet with attending vendors to learn more about their embedded solutions and any show-related (or other recent) announcements.

You can arrange a meeting time with VDC by contacting us directly.

For meetings contact:

André Girard, Senior Analyst, IoT & Embedded Technology, agirard@vdcresearch.com, 508.653.9000 x153; or
Steve Hoffenberg, Director, IoT & Embedded Technology, shoffenberg@vdcresearch.com, 508.653.9000 x143.

Haven't decided if you're attending Embedded World yet?

Please check out the Embedded World website for more information on the conference program as well as information on all of the companies that will be exhibiting.

We look forward to seeing you at the show!

12/12/2014

Intel’s IoT Platform Extends Security Toward Edges

At a press and analyst event in San Francisco on December 9, Intel announced its “IoT Platform” reference model. The model is horizontal in scope, encompassing numerous technologies applicable to everything from edge devices to gateways to the cloud. In addition, it is intended to be a modular approach, such that Intel’s hardware and software components (including those from subsidiaries Wind River and McAfee) can be mixed with those of other vendors. For example, a customer could deploy its preferred gateway devices not limited to those based on Intel’s Moon Island design, while remaining compatible with Intel’s reference model. We won’t attempt to describe the entire Intel IoT Platform in this blog post, but we’ll focus on a couple of security aspects announced. (Readers can find the full Intel press release here.)

  Intel-McAfee Security Execs

Intel executives discuss IoT Platform security: (left to right) Lorie Wigle, VP of IoT Security Solutions; Steve Grobman, Intel Fellow and CTO for Security Platforms and Solutions; and Luis Blando, SVP of Intel Security Group [McAfee].

As part of the latest announcement, McAfee’s ePolicy Orchestrator (ePO) is being extended into IoT gateways. ePO is software for security management, enabling centralized deployment and control of security policies, as well as monitoring of endpoint security status. Previously, ePO was intended for enterprise IT networks, but the announcement means that it can now encompass a much wider range of industrial and commercial IoT networks. In VDC’s opinion, this could help ease integration between IT and OT (operational technology) departments when transitioning standalone OT systems into IoT systems. OT could maintain functional control over the gateways and edge devices, while IT institutes improved access control between the gateways and enterprise network assets.

A second notable security announcement was that Intel Security will now license its Enhanced Privacy Identity (EPID) technology to other silicon vendors. EPID is a form of remote anonymous attestation using asymmetric (public key and private key) cryptography, through which central systems can confirm the integrity and authentication credentials of remote devices, without those devices having to reveal their identities or those of their owners. (One common use for anonymous attestation is digital rights management for content protection.) Anonymous attestation requires security hardware, such as a CPU with a Trusted Platform Module (TPM) or Trusted Execution Environment (TEE), for which Intel of course is a prime supplier.

EPID can create groups of devices, where a single public key can work with multiple private keys, i.e. one assigned to each device within the group. The mathematics behind EPID is complex, but for those interested, we suggest checking out the article, “Enhanced Privacy ID: A Remote Anonymous Attestation Scheme for Hardware Devices,” by Intel’s Ernie Brickell and Jiangtao Li (Intel Technology Journal, Volume 13, Issue 2, 2009, pp. 96-111). The chart below from that article summarizes how EPID differs from other attestation technologies, including Direct Anonymous Attestation (DAA).

  AttestationComparison
Chart source: Intel Technology Journal

Intel has not yet disclosed licensing terms for other chip makers to use EPID, and onerous or expensive terms could limit its acceptance. However, VDC believes that EPID could be applicable to many IoT scenarios where a central system needs to trust remote devices owned or operated by others. This type of function will become increasingly important as interested parties seek to extract shared or publicly provided data from private IoT devices.

Although numerous security technologies from many vendors are taking hold in the IoT, Intel is uniquely positioned in this market by virtue of its presence at both the network/system level (McAfee, Intel Server Systems) and the device level (Intel CPU hardware, Wind River software). Intel says, for example, that its existing McAfee Embedded Control software for application whitelisting is used by about 200 device manufacturers. Intel’s IoT Platform is the latest evidence that the company will remain a force to be reckoned with in IoT security.

11/14/2014

Automotive Privacy Protection Principles Don't Go Far Enough

The Association of Global Automakers and the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers jointly announced on November 13, 2014 a set of voluntary “Consumer Privacy Protection Principles.” (See the press release here, and download the principles PDF document here.)

The document is written in quasi-legalese, but in essence, it’s a pledge by automakers, beginning with the 2017 model year, to among other things:  ConsumerPrivacyProtectionPrinciples

  • inform consumers about how data collected from their vehicles will be used
  • obtain “affirmative consent” for certain ways that data might be used
  • anonymize aspects of the data under some circumstances

VDC applauds the auto industry for recognizing the importance to consumers of privacy for data collected by electronic and digital technologies, which are growing by leaps and bounds in new vehicles. However, the principles don't go far enough in several respects:

Security – The document states that participating members must “implement reasonable measures to protect Covered Information against loss and unauthorized access or use,” then says that “reasonable measures include standard industry practices.” The word reasonable is too wishy-washy in this context, so those statements in the privacy principles don’t inspire confidence that automakers and their partners will go the extra mile for data security. (Why don't the principles say the members must "implement strong measures" to protect the data?) Without defining any minimum security measures or committing to create or adhere to an ISO standard, it comes across as a nice way of saying, “We’ll make a good effort at security, but don't expect us to guarantee the data won't get breached.” In addition, security issues apply for data within vehicles' internal systems, for data during communications from vehicles to infrastructure, and for the databases where the manufacturers will aggregate and store the data. Security policies should specify minimum requirements for how data will be secured at each of these levels, as well as how authorized third parties with data access will be required to secure the data.

Consent – The document states that automakers need to obtain consent to “a clear, meaningful, and prominent notice disclosing the collection, use, and sharing of Covered Information.” However, the document includes no provision for a vehicle owner to deny such consent or revoke it afterwards. Why would that be important? Because the consent form is likely to be presented to consumers among a stack of numerous papers that they sign in a perfunctory manner when buying a car. In addition, consent ideally would provide vehicle owners with the ability to agree or not to agree to each type of data collected, rather than any blanket statement of consent to collection of all data. We’ll see how this plays out when the first consent forms hit the market.

Data Access – The document says that consumers will have “reasonable means to review and correct Personal Subscriber Information.” Such information may include name, address, telephone number, email address, and even credit card number. It’s fine that automakers will give consumers the right to access the data that they themselves provided in the first place, but what the document misses entirely is the basic principle that consumers should have the right to access data produced by their own vehicles. Although this isn't a data privacy issue, it is a data rights issue that automakers need to address. In VDC’s opinion, vehicle owners should have, for example, the ability to take diagnostic data to an independent mechanic, rather than manufacturers only providing such data to its dealers or third parties that have paid to access it. That concern is partly mitigated by "right to repair" laws, which are already in effect in the European Union and slated to take effect in the U.S. in the 2018 model year, although full data access would go beyond such laws. Vehicle owners also should have the ability to access geolocation and nearly all other data generated by their own vehicles. Certain types of data may need to be kept confidential, but the default should be to provide consumers access to data from their own vehicles unless there’s a legitimate safety reason not to make it available to the people whose vehicles generated it.

For further discussion of data rights issues related to the automotive industry and the Internet of Things, see the recent VDC View article entitled, Beyond "Who Owns the Data?" 

10/07/2014

How Significant is ARM’s mbed OS?

For microcontrollers (MCUs) used in embedded devices, intellectual property supplier ARM is the clear market leader. In a recent forecast for VDC Research’s report “The Global Market for Embedded Processors,” ARM-based MCUs accounted for more than half of the unit shipments using non-proprietary architectures in 2013 (see chart).

MCU Shipments by Architecture

The Cortex-M series is the main line of ARM MCUs, and is the most prevalent architecture used in embedded devices for the IoT. So when ARM announced on October 1 at the TechCon convention and trade show that the company would provide a free operating system—the mbed OS—for the M-series, it created considerable buzz in the industry, as well as some consternation and a bit of confusion.

ARM has been using the mbed name since 2005 for “maker”-style development platforms based on Cortex-M series MCUs, along with a large community of developers and an extensive software library. But the new announcement greatly expands the original mbed concept. The mbed name now encompasses not only the new operating system, but also: a cloud connectivity platform (mbed Device Server); a set of development tools (mbed Tools); and an ecosystem of partners (mbed Partners). Effectively, mbed has become a line of both products and services. ARM says that collectively, mbed will “accelerate Internet of Things deployment.” In this blog post, we’ll focus on the mbed operating system.

The embedded industry is already rife with many dozens of operating systems, ranging from bare bones to fully-featured. These include commercially-licensed binaries (closed source), commercially-licensed open source, free open source, as well as proprietary in-house OSs.

For resource-constrained embedded devices, the free open source offerings have been popular but limited in the extent of their development. Generally, commercially-licensed OSs are more professionally designed, thoroughly tested, and robust.

Several aspects of the mbed OS are noteworthy. First, ARM says that its free OS will be commercial grade. By offering it for free, the mbed OS will compete with some of the commercial embedded OSs already on the market. However, in his keynote speech at TechCon, ARM’s CTO Mike Muller emphasized that the mbed OS will not be a real time operating system (RTOS). Many IoT devices require the time-critical determinism of an RTOS, most notably in safety critical applications such as avionics, automotive systems, factory automation, and the like. The lack of real time functions will limit the breadth of applicability for mbed OS, and the extent to which it will compete with many of the commercial OSs on the market.

Second, ARM said its main intention of releasing the OS along with the mbed Device Server was to ease embedded software development to handle the many security concerns and communications protocols used in IoT, as those are often sticking points for developers not previously experienced with connected devices. Zach Shelby, Directory of Technical Marketing for the ARM’s IoT initiatives, noted that even devices running competing commercial OSs will be able to take advantage of mbed Device Server connectivity services. As Shelby described it, ARM isn’t trying to compete with OS vendors, the company is trying to ensure that IoT developers have adequate support to bring products to market in a timely manner.

Third, although ARM did not mention this in its press information Shelby told VDC that much of the mbed OS source code would be made available as open source. He also said that a few specific software components (such as some security modules) would be released only as binaries, i.e. closed source, which is why the company hasn’t been touting the OS as “open source.”

And fourth, ARM’s announcement only described the mbed OS as being for the M-series MCUs, but Shelby told us that partners will be able to adapt the open source code for ARM’s other series of processors. Indeed, at least one hardware vendor on the show floor was demonstrating a working version of the mbed OS on a Cortex A-series microprocessor. However, the higher performance A-series line is often used with more fully featured operating systems (e.g. Linux), and VDC doesn’t consider it to be a major target for the mbed OS.

All-in-all, VDC believes that the mbed OS will be significant for how it should speed up development for new entrants in the IoT. It probably won’t cause a major upheaval in the broad market for commercial embedded OSs, but a few of the OS vendors at the low end of the market are likely to be adversely impacted.

10/02/2014

Notable Demos from ARM TechCon 2014 and JavaOne

Semiconductor intellectual property supplier ARM kicked off its annual TechCon conference and trade show in Santa Clara, CA with expansion of the mbed IoT Device Platform, including a free operating system as well as server side IoT technologies. We describe the mbed OS in more detail in a separate blog post. In this post, we’ll highlight a couple of notable demos from other vendors on the show floor, plus one from Oracle’s concurrent JavaOne conference and trade show in San Francisco. In a literal sign-of-the-times at both events, you couldn’t swing a dead cat without hitting a sign that read, “Internet of Things.”

At ARM TechCon the Cryptography Research division of Rambus showed an interesting demo of differential power analysis (DPA). This is a type of side channel attack based on sensing power consumption and/or emission patterns of a processor during cryptographic operations, with the objective of extracting encryption keys. Prior to seeing this demo, we had thought of DPA as an academic or theoretical exercise that either wouldn't work in the real world or would take so long as to be insignificant. But Rambus showed us exactly how it works, measuring power emissions from a Xilinx chip while it was repeatedly performing AES 128-bit symmetric encryption on short blocks of data, and running statistical analysis on the power readings to uncover the encryption key one byte worth at a time. The entire key was recovered in about two minutes. Because the process is linear with the number of bits, AES 256-bit only would have taken about four minutes. (To break 256-bit encryption by brute force methods is orders of magnitude more difficult than to break 128-bit.) In addition, the company demonstrated a simple power analysis (SPA) side channel attack by handholding a receiver antenna to the back side of an Amazon Kindle tablet (see Picture 1), and directly reading a signal containing the asymmetric key from RSA 2048-bit encryption running in software on the device. No statistical analysis was required, as a viewer could see a graphical form of the signal representing the zeros and ones (Picture 2).

Rambus3

Picture 1: Readng power emissions from a Kindle tablet running encryption software.

Rambus2

Picture 2: Kindle emissions isolated in the frequency band of the encryption key. Narrow distances between the gaps are zeros, and wider double distances between the gaps are ones. The section of the key shown reads as 0011000001.

Needless to say, we were impressed with how easily these attacks were executed, which of course was the entire point of the demos. Rambus offers side channel attack countermeasures in the form of hardware cores and software libraries, and the demos also showed how such countermeasures confound the measurements and analysis.

Green Hills Software teamed up with Freescale to demonstrate a retail POS simulation of a RAM scraper malware technique similar to the type implicated in the Target data breach, as well as a solution using INTEGRITY hypervisor to negate the malware. The protection method keeps the credit card data encrypted in a secured application space before it gets to the normal execution area, then sends the data via secure channel to the payment processor server. Only a one-time token is passed to the normal execution area of the POS system. When that token is submitted to the payment processor, the funds are approved, without the credit card data ever existing in the normal execution area, and thus rendering RAM scraping irrelevant for theft of the card data. This type of tokenization has been done before in the payment card industry (PCI), and we expect the Target data breach will increase its uptake.

And at the JavaOne event, Oracle and the French software firm Oberthur Technologies demonstrated an Android device with a Java Virtual Machine running within an ARM TrustZone trusted execution environment (TEE). Oberthur’s software runs on the server side of an Internet connection, and enables specially designed Java apps to be securely installed into the device also using a tokenization method. This is the only solution we’ve seen to date that enables applications to be remotely installed into a TEE. Although the demo was run on an Android phone, we see the potential for its use in many other types of IoT devices.

08/07/2014

IoT Lessons from the Russian CyberVor Hacking

Widely reported during the first week of August was the revelation that a group of Russian hackers known as CyberVor had amassed a database of 1.2 billion usernames and passwords, as well as more than 500 million email addresses. The New York Times originally broke the story, based on findings from the firm Hold Security. Unlike the Target retail data breach of late 2013 and the more recent eBay breach, CyberVor’s loot is not the result of one or two large breaches, but rather a large number of breaches of all sizes. Hold Security says that the data came from 420,000 websites, ranging from large household-name dotcoms down to small sites. Most of the sites were breached using SQL injection techniques through malware infecting the computers of unwitting legitimate users.

Breaches of major websites or retailers tend to be highly concentrated, narrowly focused efforts, whereas the database collected by CyberVor appears to be the result of casting a very wide (bot)net, trawling the world wide web for anything the group could catch.

What lessons can the CyberVor revelation teach us (or reinforce) about the Internet of Things?

Lesson #1: No IoT site (either physical or virtual) is too small to be attacked. Many users are tempted to think, “Why would anyone bother to hack my little IoT network?” The answer is, “Because they can.”

Lesson #2: Even data that has little or no value to hackers on its own may have value when aggregated.  If you think your data is worthless to others, you’re probably wrong. Big data is comprised of a whole lot of little data.

Lesson #3: Authorized users or devices are not necessarily safe just because they are authorized. Follow the principle of least privilege, in which users or devices only have access to the minimum amount of data and system resources necessary to perform their functions.

Lesson #4: Monitor your networks for atypical or unexpected movements of data. This is challenging in practice, because valid usage occasionally may not follow past patterns. Nevertheless, at a minimum the system should have a way to throw up a red flag if a user or device is attempting to copy large portions of a database.

Lesson #5: Don’t neglect the basics. SQL injection attacks as well as buffer overflows and cross-site scripting are common and easily preventable. Most software code analysis tools can check for vulnerabilities to such attacks early in the development process.

Lesson #6: Conduct independent penetration tests on your devices and networks. If you think that your own engineers already have covered every possible attack vector, you’re probably wrong. You need outside eyeballs incentivized to find flaws without concern about stepping on coworkers’ toes.

And lastly, Lesson #7: At the risk of stating the obvious, encrypt your data. Any database that is accessible either directly or indirectly from the Internet is worth encrypting. Passwords in particular are keys to the kingdom. Encrypt them with salted hash techniques and strong algorithms. There is never a valid reason to store passwords in plain text.

If the websites breached by CyberVor already had learned these lessons, the hack wouldn’t even have been newsworthy.

For more insights into IoT security issues, check out VDC’s research program on Security & the Internet of Things.