Click here to close now.


Containers Expo Blog Authors: Liz McMillan, Elizabeth White, Pat Romanski, Yeshim Deniz, Lori MacVittie

Related Topics: @CloudExpo, Java IoT, Microservices Expo, Containers Expo Blog, Agile Computing, SDN Journal, @ThingsExpo

@CloudExpo: Article

Securing the Internet of Things: Is the IoT DoA?

How will your dishwasher know someone has hacked your thermostat?

Your alarm clock jars you awake. You stumble to the kitchen, fire up your coffee maker, grab some milk from the fridge, and pour yourself a bowl of cereal. You turn down the thermostat before you head to your car. You park your sedan in your usual spot in the garage at work, and you enter your office building by waving your badge at the door. Finally, you drop into your chair and fire up your computer.

A mundane story, one millions of people trudge through every day with only minor variations. But here’s the question: how many Internet-connected devices did you interact with between opening your eyes and logging in? Let’s see: alarm clock, coffee maker, fridge, thermostat, your automobile, all the stop lights, traffic cameras, toll transceivers, and in-road traffic sensors on your commute, and finally your badge and the door. OK, maybe your household appliances aren’t on the Internet yet. Give them a few years.

Now ask yourself: how many of those net-connected doodads are secure? The answer: none of them. Every device on this list is woefully unprotected from various attacks, and to make matters worse, many of them might contain confidential information ripe for the picking. And if all that weren’t sufficiently disconcerting, the vendors of such miscellany aren’t particularly motivated to make them secure – even if they knew how to do it properly. Which they don’t. Nevertheless, we blindly forge ahead, building out the Internet of Things (IoT), as though the security issues will somehow resolve themselves. Just how worried should we be?

The Bad and the Ugly – but None of the Good
This tale of woe begins with Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags. These innocuous tags appear in everything from product packaging to airport tarmac equipment to passports to, yes, your security badge. And as you would expect from the tone of this ZapFlash, RFID tags are dead simple to hack. They come in two flavors: passive and active. The passive ones need no power source; they simply respond when the right signal gets close enough to them. No encryption, no authentication, no nothing. Anyone with the right device (which you can easily obtain over the Internet, of course) can read your tag simply by getting their snooping device close enough to it. Have you ever walked down the street with your security badge, or through an airport with your passport? Has anybody ever passed within a few feet of you? Stupid questions, right?

So, how do the best RFID security minds recommend protecting your RFID tags from compromise? Put them in protective sleeves. And no, wrapping your passport in aluminum foil won’t do. You need a special Faraday cage sleeve. But even if you manage to keep your RFID tags in an effective sleeve, all a hacker has to do is wait till you take it out. Recommending a sleeve to protect the IoT from attack is about as effective as climbing under school desks was at surviving a Cold War nuke.

Surely the technology in our increasingly cyber-aware automobiles is more secure than your run of the mill RFID tag, right? Sorry, no. Today’s cars have fifty or more tiny computers called electronic control units that control all aspects of the vehicle’s function. These units communicate with each other via a Controller Area Network (CAN). As vehicle manufacturers increasingly provide Internet access to their autos, hackers can easily access the CAN remotely – and with it, all the functions of the car. Brakes. Steering. Engine. Everything down to the radio.

There are two primary modes of protection the car manufacturers are implementing to prevent hackers from using these weaknesses to steal cars, kill targeted individuals, or simply wreak havoc. First, CAN protocols are proprietary. And second, the manufacturers are keeping all the details secret.

Neither technique, of course, provides any true measure of security, as researchers proved at a recent DefCon conference. Secrets are virtually impossible to keep in today’s Facebooked world. Also keep in mind, any authorized repair shop will have a diagnostic machine that interfaces with the CAN. If a hacker doesn’t want to bother reverse engineering the proprietary protocol directly, they can simply get their hands one of those machines and hack that.

Why the IoT is so Hard to Secure
There are both business and technical reasons why the IoT is so difficult to secure. On the technical side, the core problem is that the tried-and-true technologies we use to secure traditional interactions with the Internet just don’t work well – if they work at all. To use Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) technology, for example, each endpoint must be able to store digital keys and run encryption and decryption algorithms, conduct sophisticated handshakes to establish secure SSL connections, etc. However, many IoT nodes like the passive RFID tags simply don’t have the electrical power, storage, or processing power necessary to tackle even the simplest of PKI tasks.

Secondly, a large part of the IoT approach involves machine-to-machine (M2M) communication. In other words, sensors and other IoT endpoints talk to each other, instead of talking to a server somewhere. If your smart thermostat tells your dishwasher when to run, that communication might be running over your home Wi-Fi or perhaps Bluetooth or some other local network protocol that doesn’t require traffic to actually go over the Internet. And not only does it go without saying that Wi-Fi and Bluetooth protocols are shockingly easy to hack, but how are the two communicating nodes supposed to know that the information coming from the other is authorized? Essentially, any kind of M2M interaction requires a certain level of trust, only we have no way of providing that trust in the first place, or revoking it should a breach occur. How will your dishwasher know someone has hacked your thermostat?

In fact, the two examples above provide special cases of a broader problem: the IoT gives us no way to control permissions. Let’s say you figure it’s a good idea for said thermostat to Tweet certain information so it’s easy for you to monitor your home while you’re away. If a hacker compromises the thermostat, they automatically get your Twitter login – and you no longer have any way to control your Tweets.

The final challenge I’ll consider here (keeping in mind there are sure to be dozens of others) is the fact that devices on the Internet must have IP addresses – and in many cases, IoT sensors wouldn’t work properly behind firewalls. They must have public IP addresses that anyone can access. And if someone can access them, then someone will. Ever heard of Shodan? It’s a tool for finding IP addresses for random devices, including baby monitors, Webcams, security systems, and all manner of other bric-a-brac. How would you like a hacker to compromise your baby monitor? It’s happened before, and it’ll happen again.

Scanning random IP addresses, however, is only practical for the familiar IPv4 space. As we move to IPv6, there will be so many possible addresses that scanning them at random will be much more difficult. This advantage, however, is weaker than you might think. First, it simply presents an interesting challenge to enterprising hackers out there. How long will it take for a Shodan 2.0 to be IPv6 compatible? Secondly, IPv6 can actually make it more difficult for an organization with many IoT sensors to secure them (assuming they have any idea how to do so in the first place), because IPv6 makes it more difficult for an authorized party to scan for them as well. And if you don’t know what devices and sensors you have, you can’t control, manage, or secure them.

Such technical issues, of course, aren’t the whole story. On the business side, the problems are even more slippery. There is no agreement on how or even whether to address IoT security. Few countries have any regulation requiring companies to implement security in their devices. And there’s no market pressure forcing such vendors to get their act together. We, the customers, have simply grown too complacent. If we won’t pay more for secure automobiles and refrigerators, then rest assured no company will bother to go through the trouble to secure them.

The ZapThink Take
You were hoping I had some slick, imaginative approach for solving these issues, right? Sorry to disappoint. But rather than throwing our collective hands in the air, dumping all our devices down the garbage chute, and moving to a cave on Borneo somewhere, we must realize that the only way we’ll ever solve this riddle is by taking an entirely different perspective on securing technology.

We cannot impose security from the outside onto each sensor. It’s simply too easy for hackers to get a hold of them and defeat whatever mechanism we’ve put in place. Instead, the sensors themselves must be inherently secure. Only when a hacker can break open a sensor, reverse engineer it as well as the communication protocols it uses, and still not be able to hack into it or use it to hack into something else will we finally be able to sleep at night. Solve this challenge and I promise you, you’ll be very, very rich.

More Stories By Jason Bloomberg

Jason Bloomberg is the leading expert on architecting agility for the enterprise. As president of Intellyx, Mr. Bloomberg brings his years of thought leadership in the areas of Cloud Computing, Enterprise Architecture, and Service-Oriented Architecture to a global clientele of business executives, architects, software vendors, and Cloud service providers looking to achieve technology-enabled business agility across their organizations and for their customers. His latest book, The Agile Architecture Revolution (John Wiley & Sons, 2013), sets the stage for Mr. Bloomberg’s groundbreaking Agile Architecture vision.

Mr. Bloomberg is perhaps best known for his twelve years at ZapThink, where he created and delivered the Licensed ZapThink Architect (LZA) SOA course and associated credential, certifying over 1,700 professionals worldwide. He is one of the original Managing Partners of ZapThink LLC, the leading SOA advisory and analysis firm, which was acquired by Dovel Technologies in 2011. He now runs the successor to the LZA program, the Bloomberg Agile Architecture Course, around the world.

Mr. Bloomberg is a frequent conference speaker and prolific writer. He has published over 500 articles, spoken at over 300 conferences, Webinars, and other events, and has been quoted in the press over 1,400 times as the leading expert on agile approaches to architecture in the enterprise.

Mr. Bloomberg’s previous book, Service Orient or Be Doomed! How Service Orientation Will Change Your Business (John Wiley & Sons, 2006, coauthored with Ron Schmelzer), is recognized as the leading business book on Service Orientation. He also co-authored the books XML and Web Services Unleashed (SAMS Publishing, 2002), and Web Page Scripting Techniques (Hayden Books, 1996).

Prior to ZapThink, Mr. Bloomberg built a diverse background in eBusiness technology management and industry analysis, including serving as a senior analyst in IDC’s eBusiness Advisory group, as well as holding eBusiness management positions at USWeb/CKS (later marchFIRST) and WaveBend Solutions (now Hitachi Consulting).

@ThingsExpo Stories
Through WebRTC, audio and video communications are being embedded more easily than ever into applications, helping carriers, enterprises and independent software vendors deliver greater functionality to their end users. With today’s business world increasingly focused on outcomes, users’ growing calls for ease of use, and businesses craving smarter, tighter integration, what’s the next step in delivering a richer, more immersive experience? That richer, more fully integrated experience comes about through a Communications Platform as a Service which allows for messaging, screen sharing, video...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Dyn, the worldwide leader in Internet Performance, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Dyn is a cloud-based Internet Performance company. Dyn helps companies monitor, control, and optimize online infrastructure for an exceptional end-user experience. Through a world-class network and unrivaled, objective intelligence into Internet conditions, Dyn ensures traffic gets delivered faster, safer, and more reliably than ever.
The buzz continues for cloud, data analytics and the Internet of Things (IoT) and their collective impact across all industries. But a new conversation is emerging - how do companies use industry disruption and technology enablers to lead in markets undergoing change, uncertainty and ambiguity? Organizations of all sizes need to evolve and transform, often under massive pressure, as industry lines blur and merge and traditional business models are assaulted and turned upside down. In this new data-driven world, marketplaces reign supreme while interoperability, APIs and applications deliver un...
The Internet of Things (IoT) is growing rapidly by extending current technologies, products and networks. By 2020, Cisco estimates there will be 50 billion connected devices. Gartner has forecast revenues of over $300 billion, just to IoT suppliers. Now is the time to figure out how you’ll make money – not just create innovative products. With hundreds of new products and companies jumping into the IoT fray every month, there’s no shortage of innovation. Despite this, McKinsey/VisionMobile data shows "less than 10 percent of IoT developers are making enough to support a reasonably sized team....
There are so many tools and techniques for data analytics that even for a data scientist the choices, possible systems, and even the types of data can be daunting. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Chris Harrold, Global CTO for Big Data Solutions for EMC Corporation, will show how to perform a simple, but meaningful analysis of social sentiment data using freely available tools that take only minutes to download and install. Participants will get the download information, scripts, and complete end-to-end walkthrough of the analysis from start to finish. Participants will also be given the pract...
The IoT market is on track to hit $7.1 trillion in 2020. The reality is that only a handful of companies are ready for this massive demand. There are a lot of barriers, paint points, traps, and hidden roadblocks. How can we deal with these issues and challenges? The paradigm has changed. Old-style ad-hoc trial-and-error ways will certainly lead you to the dead end. What is mandatory is an overarching and adaptive approach to effectively handle the rapid changes and exponential growth.
Today’s connected world is moving from devices towards things, what this means is that by using increasingly low cost sensors embedded in devices we can create many new use cases. These span across use cases in cities, vehicles, home, offices, factories, retail environments, worksites, health, logistics, and health. These use cases rely on ubiquitous connectivity and generate massive amounts of data at scale. These technologies enable new business opportunities, ways to optimize and automate, along with new ways to engage with users.
Internet of Things (IoT) will be a hybrid ecosystem of diverse devices and sensors collaborating with operational and enterprise systems to create the next big application. In their session at @ThingsExpo, Bramh Gupta, founder and CEO of, and Fred Yatzeck, principal architect leading product development at, discussed how choosing the right middleware and integration strategy from the get-go will enable IoT solution developers to adapt and grow with the industry, while at the same time reduce Time to Market (TTM) by using plug and play capabilities offered by a robust IoT ...
Mobile messaging has been a popular communication channel for more than 20 years. Finnish engineer Matti Makkonen invented the idea for SMS (Short Message Service) in 1984, making his vision a reality on December 3, 1992 by sending the first message ("Happy Christmas") from a PC to a cell phone. Since then, the technology has evolved immensely, from both a technology standpoint, and in our everyday uses for it. Originally used for person-to-person (P2P) communication, i.e., Sally sends a text message to Betty – mobile messaging now offers tremendous value to businesses for customer and empl...
Can call centers hang up the phones for good? Intuitive Solutions did. WebRTC enabled this contact center provider to eliminate antiquated telephony and desktop phone infrastructure with a pure web-based solution, allowing them to expand beyond brick-and-mortar confines to a home-based agent model. It also ensured scalability and better service for customers, including MUY! Companies, one of the country's largest franchise restaurant companies with 232 Pizza Hut locations. This is one example of WebRTC adoption today, but the potential is limitless when powered by IoT.
You have your devices and your data, but what about the rest of your Internet of Things story? Two popular classes of technologies that nicely handle the Big Data analytics for Internet of Things are Apache Hadoop and NoSQL. Hadoop is designed for parallelizing analytical work across many servers and is ideal for the massive data volumes you create with IoT devices. NoSQL databases such as Apache HBase are ideal for storing and retrieving IoT data as “time series data.”
Clearly the way forward is to move to cloud be it bare metal, VMs or containers. One aspect of the current public clouds that is slowing this cloud migration is cloud lock-in. Every cloud vendor is trying to make it very difficult to move out once a customer has chosen their cloud. In his session at 17th Cloud Expo, Naveen Nimmu, CEO of Clouber, Inc., will advocate that making the inter-cloud migration as simple as changing airlines would help the entire industry to quickly adopt the cloud without worrying about any lock-in fears. In fact by having standard APIs for IaaS would help PaaS expl...
NHK, Japan Broadcasting, will feature the upcoming @ThingsExpo Silicon Valley in a special 'Internet of Things' and smart technology documentary that will be filmed on the expo floor between November 3 to 5, 2015, in Santa Clara. NHK is the sole public TV network in Japan equivalent to the BBC in the UK and the largest in Asia with many award-winning science and technology programs. Japanese TV is producing a documentary about IoT and Smart technology and will be covering @ThingsExpo Silicon Valley. The program, to be aired during the peak viewership season of the year, will have a major impac...
SYS-CON Events announced today that ProfitBricks, the provider of painless cloud infrastructure, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. ProfitBricks is the IaaS provider that offers a painless cloud experience for all IT users, with no learning curve. ProfitBricks boasts flexible cloud servers and networking, an integrated Data Center Designer tool for visual control over the cloud and the best price/performance value available. ProfitBricks was named one of the coolest Clo...
Organizations already struggle with the simple collection of data resulting from the proliferation of IoT, lacking the right infrastructure to manage it. They can't only rely on the cloud to collect and utilize this data because many applications still require dedicated infrastructure for security, redundancy, performance, etc. In his session at 17th Cloud Expo, Emil Sayegh, CEO of Codero Hosting, will discuss how in order to resolve the inherent issues, companies need to combine dedicated and cloud solutions through hybrid hosting – a sustainable solution for the data required to manage I...
Apps and devices shouldn't stop working when there's limited or no network connectivity. Learn how to bring data stored in a cloud database to the edge of the network (and back again) whenever an Internet connection is available. In his session at 17th Cloud Expo, Bradley Holt, Developer Advocate at IBM Cloud Data Services, will demonstrate techniques for replicating cloud databases with devices in order to build offline-first mobile or Internet of Things (IoT) apps that can provide a better, faster user experience, both offline and online. The focus of this talk will be on IBM Cloudant, Apa...
WebRTC is about the data channel as much as about video and audio conferencing. However, basically all commercial WebRTC applications have been built with a focus on audio and video. The handling of “data” has been limited to text chat and file download – all other data sharing seems to end with screensharing. What is holding back a more intensive use of peer-to-peer data? In her session at @ThingsExpo, Dr Silvia Pfeiffer, WebRTC Applications Team Lead at National ICT Australia, will look at different existing uses of peer-to-peer data sharing and how it can become useful in a live session to...
As a company adopts a DevOps approach to software development, what are key things that both the Dev and Ops side of the business must keep in mind to ensure effective continuous delivery? In his session at DevOps Summit, Mark Hydar, Head of DevOps, Ericsson TV Platforms, will share best practices and provide helpful tips for Ops teams to adopt an open line of communication with the development side of the house to ensure success between the two sides.
SYS-CON Events announced today that IBM Cloud Data Services has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 17th Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. IBM Cloud Data Services offers a portfolio of integrated, best-of-breed cloud data services for developers focused on mobile computing and analytics use cases.
"Matrix is an ambitious open standard and implementation that's set up to break down the fragmentation problems that exist in IP messaging and VoIP communication," explained John Woolf, Technical Evangelist at Matrix, in this interview at @ThingsExpo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.