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6/23/2016
10:45 AM
Don Bailey
Don Bailey
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Internet Of Things & The Platform Of Parenthood

A new father's musings on the problems with securing embedded systems, and why there are so few incentives for architecting trustworthy IoT technology from the ground up.

This weekend, I hit a new milestone. I celebrated my first Father’s Day as the parent of a week-old newborn. Like any new father, I’m a mix of pride, exhaustion, and unnecessary amounts of caffeine and ibuprofen. Unlike some new fathers, I spend an exorbitant amount of time thinking about Internet of Things security, and how critical security it is to the future of not only embedded systems, but our society.

My concern drove me to become one of the first researchers to join the Internet of Things movement back in 2010. In 2011, I successfully performed the first remote hack of a car, demonstrated at the Black Hat Briefings in Las Vegas. Many other research projects followed. More importantly, I won a DARPA grant in 2012 focusing on IoT security (then dubbed Machine to Machine) and created a threat model for embedded systems, IoT networking technology, and the back-end services that drive them. Due to a surprising lack of interest in IoT security at the time, I had to wait to release my findings until the ecosystem gained momentum. After some negotiation, I teamed up with the GSMA in early 2015 to transition my DARPA research to the GSMA IoT Security Guidelines project, which is now publicly available for download on the GSMA website.

Yet, years of research didn’t prepare me for the moment of clarity that had, presumably, been brewing in my head for quite some time. It took my baby boy, Pierce, to put the pieces together for me. I’ve been saying it for over five years, but the Internet of Things is not simply a fad or a buzzword. The IoT represents the next generation of computing -- the hybridization of our physical and digital worlds. As our physical world becomes more interconnected with our digital world, identity becomes the center of not only computer security, but computing, period.

And this brings up a fascinating yet often debated point regarding consumer and industrial systems: How can these devices be allowed to control our physical lives when we simply can’t engineer trustworthy technology?

That’s when it hit me. Raising a child requires sacrifice. It requires discipline, patience, and most of all, it requires a safe environment for the child to grow. Children require education and, possibly more importantly, the opportunity to play, in order to strengthen their intellect and social skills. But where does education and the right to play come from? Safe and secure environments. Children must be provided with a safe and secure environment for them to explore, learn, and socialize. Whether that environment is a country, a town, or a school, children that live in volatile or dangerous environments have less ability to focus, fewer opportunities for meaningful work, and more stressful social relationships. In essence, a society’s future is founded upon the safety and security offered to its children.

Truly, technology is no different. We’ve built processing architectures and platforms in an attempt to create safe and stable environments for researchers and entrepreneurs to grow incredible children of their own. From cancer research, to the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), to Sexual Health Innovations open-source Callisto Project, our society will benefit from these conceptual children, birthed from evolving computing environments.

And yet, we are failing our technological children. Internet of Things technology represents a massive influx of embedded systems into not only the Internet, but our global society. The platforms these devices are designed from are riddled with security flaws. IoT security has become such a punch-line in the information security community that Dave Aitel coined the phrase junk hacking to describe how easy it is. The reality? He’s right.

Modern embedded security is a problem. There are few, if any, incentives to architect secure technology from the ground up. The incentive is, instead, to build and deploy a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) as quickly and cost-effectively as possible. Why? Simple. This equates to investments and tangible sales. There is no stop-gap to accentuate the requirement of security, even though designing secure embedded systems can literally save a startup millions of dollars in future engineering, device replacement, insurance, and legal costs. The incentive has to change.

Recently, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) evaluated the IoT and concluded that security and consumer privacy are rapidly growing concerns. Yet, they have stated in February of this year that the FTC does not intend to enforce regulation on the IoT. If our lawmakers and regulators don’t stand for consumer privacy and safety, corporations that do not yet understand the risks they are putting their own businesses in will see little reason to invest in architectural changes.

The result, as we already know, will be disastrous. You may not have to worry about physically getting your pocket picked in Amsterdam, but your rental car’s telematic system may be a backdoor to the NFC payment application on your smartphone.

As a community, we need to step back and take a moment to reassess how we raise our children in the technology that is quickly evolving in the Internet of Things. Do we enforce regulations and laws that ensure they will grow on a platform that incentivizes privacy, confidentiality, and integrity? Or will we raise them with promiscuous interfaces, loosely authenticated APIs, and open doors to criminal behaviors?

Related Content:

Don A. Bailey is a pioneer in security for mobile technology, the Internet of Things, and embedded systems. He has a long history of ground-breaking research, protecting mobile users from worldwide tracking systems, securing automobiles from remote attack, and mitigating ... View Full Bio
 

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securitymouse
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securitymouse,
User Rank: Strategist
6/27/2016 | 1:24:47 PM
Re: More meta data
Great points, all, Dr. T. I appreciate your point of view regarding decryption, too. You are correct in that engineers can often harden in-flight communications, but have a tendency to forget to create rigid controls around at-rest data and metadata. This is something Jimmy and I covered in the GMSA IoT Security Guidelines, as well as my McGraw Hill book manuscript. More organizaitons need to understand how failed key management in the endpoint can result in a full break of the IoT ecosystem. 
Dr.T
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50%
Dr.T,
User Rank: Ninja
6/27/2016 | 1:22:19 PM
Re: Interesting post
"... Without a doubt many people will buy an unsafe offering ..."

There is a recent research results I just read somewhere, people were asked whether they would be an autonomous car that protects the driver or others for greater good. Most answered as cars protecting themselves. When we really feel our skin on the line we go with secure option. Sometime we do not chare where our names, phones or addresses are compromised. 
securitymouse
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securitymouse,
User Rank: Strategist
6/27/2016 | 1:21:13 PM
Re: More meta data
Great point, Jimmy. Thanks for your view! 
Dr.T
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50%
Dr.T,
User Rank: Ninja
6/27/2016 | 1:16:35 PM
Re: More meta data
"... Any child will be shaped by the culture, people, and rule sets ..."

And the technology. People wonder why millennial do not buy cars, they do lots of researches and try to come up with an explanation.  Answer is simple, they do not need it, there is Uber.
Dr.T
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50%
Dr.T,
User Rank: Ninja
6/27/2016 | 1:12:20 PM
Re: Interesting post
"... these organizations all seem to be working separately ..."

This is how it works naturally. You will never find countries and companies coming together and refining common ground, they only look for their own profits.
Dr.T
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Dr.T,
User Rank: Ninja
6/27/2016 | 1:10:17 PM
Re: Interesting post
" ... a security certification lab ..."

I am less favor for and authority telling us that it is secure more like IoT vendors taking the responsibility and making it secure. Again, IoT devices will be more personal so people would expect standard level of security embedded.
Dr.T
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50%
Dr.T,
User Rank: Ninja
6/27/2016 | 1:07:52 PM
Re: Encryption
"... Encryption is an imperative component in modern technology ..."

Agree, it is just not end to end but at rest encryption is mandatory and also key management. Remember there is decryption for each encryption.
Dr.T
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50%
Dr.T,
User Rank: Ninja
6/27/2016 | 1:04:58 PM
Re: Interesting post
"... technology we build will define our societal stability ..."

Agree, it is already defining how we live our daily lives, it will certainly be having further impact in coming years.
Dr.T
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50%
Dr.T,
User Rank: Ninja
6/27/2016 | 1:02:40 PM
Re: Encryption
"This is precisely why encryption is so important...."

True, unless they hack the encryption too.
Dr.T
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50%
Dr.T,
User Rank: Ninja
6/27/2016 | 1:00:08 PM
Re: thank you
"... Almost all education teaching faculties are aware of major social media sites ..."

They may but some do not release how impactful they could be, while social networks and media are good they also expose critical information for hackers.
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