Give It Up, People: Government Regulation of IoT Is Vital

Could this be the incident that finally gets everyone in the IoT industry to — as I’ve said repeatedly in the past — make privacy and security Job 1 — and to drop the lobbying groups’ argument that government regulation isn’t needed? 

I hope so, because the IoT’s future is at stake, and, frankly, not enough companies get it.

I’m referring to the Chrysler recall last week of 1.4 million Jeeps for a security patch after WIRED reported on an experiment in which two white-hat hackers remotely disabled a Jeep on an Interstate from miles away, exploiting a vulnerable link between its entertainment and control systems.  Put yourself in the place of reporter Andy Greenberg, then tell me with a straight face that you wouldn’t be out of your mind if this happened to you:

“As the two hackers remotely toyed with the air-conditioning, radio, and windshield wipers, I mentally congratulated myself on my courage under pressure. That’s when they cut the transmission.

Immediately my accelerator stopped working. As I frantically pressed the pedal and watched the RPMs climb, the Jeep lost half its speed, then slowed to a crawl. This occurred just as I reached a long overpass, with no shoulder to offer an escape. The experiment had ceased to be fun.

At that point, the interstate began to slope upward, so the Jeep lost more momentum and barely crept forward. Cars lined up behind my bumper before passing me, honking. I could see an 18-wheeler approaching in my rearview mirror. I hoped its driver saw me, too, and could tell I was paralyzed on the highway.

“You’re doomed!” Valasek [one of the hackers] shouted, but I couldn’t make out his heckling over the blast of the radio, now pumping Kanye West. The semi loomed in the mirror, bearing down on my immobilized Jeep.”

OK: calm down, get a cool drink, and, when your Apple Watch says your heart beat has returned to normal, read on….

But, dear reader, our industry’s leaders, assumedly knowing the well-publicized specifics of the Chrysler attack, had the hubris to still speak at a hearing of the Internet Subcommittee of the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee last week and claim (according to CIO) that that government regulation of the IoT industry wasn’t needed.

CEA CEO Gary Shapiro said in calling for government “restraint”:

“It’s up to manufacturers and service providers to make good decisions about privacy and security, or they will fail in the marketplace….. Industry-driven solutions are best to promote innovation while protecting consumers.”

Sorry, Gary: if someone dies because their Jeep got spoofed, the survivors’ attorneys won’t be content with the company’s failure in the marketplace.

There are some important collaborative efforts to create privacy and security standards for the IoT, such as the AllSeen Alliance. However, as I’ve written before, there are also too many startups who defer building in privacy and security protections until they’ve solved their technology needs, and others, most famously TRENDnet, who don’t do anything at all, resulting in a big FTC fine.  There are simply too many examples of hackers using the Shodan site to hack into devices, not to mention academics and others who’ve showed security flaws that might even kill you if exploited.

One local IoT leader, Paddy Srinivasan of LoMein, gets it, as reported today by the Boston Globe‘s Hiawatha Bray:

“‘I think it is a seminal moment…. These new devices need a fresh approach and a new way of thinking about security, and that is the missing piece.'”

But it’s too late to just talk about self-policing.

Massachusetts’ own Ed Markey and his Connecticut counterpart, Richard Blumenthal, have called the associations’ bluff, and filed legislation, The Security and Privacy in Your Car Act (AKA SPY Car, LOL)  that would require the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to establish federal standards to secure cars and protect drivers’ privacy. It would also create a rating system — or “cyber dashboard”— telling drivers about how well the vehicle protects drivers’ security and privacy beyond those minimum standards. This comes in the wake of the Markey study I reported on last Winter documenting car companies’ failure to build in adequate cyber-hacking protections.

Guess what, folks?  This is only the beginning.  Probably the only thing I’ve ever agreed with Dick Cheney on (ok, we agree it’s cool to have been born in Wyoming and that Lynne Cheney is a great writer), is that it wouldn’t be cool for the Veep to have his pacemaker hacked, so you can bet there will be legislation and regulations soon governing privacy and security for wearables as well.

As I’ve said before, I come at this issue differently from a lot of engineers, having earned my keep for many years doing crisis management for Fortune 100 companies that bet the farm by doing dumb things that could destroy public trust in them overnight. Once lost, that trust is difficult, if not impossible, to regain.  Even worse, in this case, cavalier attitudes by even one IoT company, if the shock value of the results is great enough, could make everyone in the industry suffer.

So, if you’re arguing for no regulation of the IoT industry, I have just one suggestion: shut up,clean up your act and take a positive role in shaping regulations that would be performance-based, not prescriptive: the horse has already left the barn.

Now I have to check my Apple Watch to see when my heart rate will get back to normal.

 

The #IoT Can Kill You! Got Your Attention? Car Security a Must

The Internet of Things can kill you.

Got your attention? OK, maybe this is the wake-up call the IoT world needs to make certain that privacy and security are baked in, not just afterthoughts.

Markey_IoT_car_reportI’ve blogged before about how privacy and security must be Job 1, but now it’s in the headlines because of a new report by our Mass. Senator, Ed Markey (Political aside: thanks, Ed, for more than 30 years of leadership — frequently as a voice crying in the wilderness — on the policy implications of telecomm!), “Tracking & Hacking: Security & Privacy Gaps Put American Drivers at Risk,” about the dangers of not taking the issues seriously when it comes to smart cars.

I first became concerned about this issue when reading “Look Out, He’s Got an Phone,!” (my personal nominee for all-time most wry IoT headline…), a litany of all sorts of horrific things, such as spoofing the low air-pressure light on your car so you’ll pull over and the Bad Guys can get it would stop dead at 70 mph,  that are proven risks of un-encrypted automotive data.  All too typical was the reaction of Schrader Electronics, which makes the tire sensors:

“Schrader Electronics, the biggest T.P.M.S. manufacturer, publicly scoffed at the Rutgers–South Carolina report. Tracking cars by tire, it said, is ‘not only impractical but nearly impossible.’ T.P.M.S. systems, it maintained, are reliable and safe.

“This is the kind of statement that security analysts regard as an invitation. A year after Schrader’s sneering response, researchers from the University of Washington and the University of California–San Diego were able to ‘spoof’ (fake) the signals from a tire-pressure E.C.U. by hacking an adjacent but entirely different system—the OnStar-type network that monitors the T.P.M.S. for roadside assistance. In a scenario from a techno-thriller, the researchers called the cell phone built into the car network with a message supposedly sent from the tires. ‘It told the car that the tires had 10 p.s.i. when they in fact had 30 p.s.i.,’ team co-leader Tadayoshi Kohno told me—a message equivalent to ‘Stop the car immediately.’ He added, ‘In theory, you could reprogram the car while it is parked, then initiate the program with a transmitter by the freeway. The car drives by, you call the transmitter with your smartphone, it sends the initiation code—bang! The car locks up at 70 miles per hour. You’ve crashed their car without touching it.’”

Hubris: it’ll get you every time….

So now Senator Markey lays out the full scope of this issue, and it should scare the daylights out of you — and, hopefully, Detroit! The report is compiled on responses by 16 car companies (BMW, Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai, Jaguar Land Rover, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Porsche, Subaru, Toyota, Volkswagen (with Audi), and Volvo — hmm: one that didn’t respond was Tesla, which I suspect [just a hunch] really has paid attention to this issue because of its techno leadership) to letters Markey sent in late 2013. Here are the damning highlights from his report:

“1. Nearly 100% of cars on the market include wireless technologies that could pose vulnerabilities to hacking or privacy intrusions.

2. Most automobile manufacturers were unaware of or unable to report on past hacking incidents.

3. Security measures to prevent remote access to vehicle electronics are inconsistent and haphazard across all automobile manufacturers, and many manufacturers did not seem to understand the questions posed by Senator Markey.

4. Only two automobile manufacturers were able to describe any capabilities to diagnose or meaningfully respond to an infiltration in real-time, and most say they rely on technologies that cannot be used for this purpose at all. (my emphasis)

5. Automobile manufacturers collect large amounts of data on driving history and vehicle performance.

6. A majority of automakers offer technologies that collect and wirelessly transmit driving history data to data centers, including third-party data centers, and most do not describe effective means to secure the data.

7. Manufacturers use personal vehicle data in various ways, often vaguely to “improve the customer experience” and usually involving third parties, and retention policies – how long they store information about drivers – vary considerably among manufacturers.

8. Customers are often not explicitly made aware of data collection and, when they are, they often cannot opt out without disabling valuable features, such as navigation.”

In short, the auto industry collects a lot of information about us, and doesn’t have a clue how to manage or protect it.

I’ve repeatedly warned before that one of the issues technologists don’t really understand and/or scoff at, is public fears about privacy and security. Based on my prior work in crisis management, that can be costly — or fatal.

This report should serve as a bit of electroshock therapy to get them (and here I’m referring not just to auto makers but all IoT technologists: it’s called guilt by association, and most people tend to confabulate fears, not discriminate between them. Unless everyone in IoT takes privacy and security seriously, everyone may suffer the result [see below]) to realize that it’s not OK, as one of the speakers at the Wearables + Things conference said, that “we’ll get to privacy and security later.” It’s got to be a priority from the get-go (more about this in a forthcoming post, where I’ll discuss the recent FTC report on the issue).

I’ve got enough to worry about behind the wheel, since the North American Deer Alliance is out to get me. Don’t make me worry about false tire pressure readings.


PS: there’s another important issue here that may be obscured: the very connectedness that is such an important aspect of the IoT. Remember that the researchers spoofed the T.P.M.S. system not through a frontal assault, but by attacking the roadside assistance system? It’s like the way Target’s computers were hacked via a small company doing HVAC maintenance. Moral of the story? No IoT system is safe unless all the ones linking to it are safe.  For want of a nail … the kingdom was lost!

Another Personal IoT Story: my next car will have auto braking

Posted on 16th January 2015 in automotive, Essential Truths, transportation

Sorry to burden you with another personal Internet of Things story, especially since this one’s nowhere near as nice as how car_crashsmart sockets made peace in my house!

For the second time in less than a month, I was hit by a deer at night on Rt. 27 in Medfield, MA. If you know our area, its in the outer suburbs, and plagued by deer, who are mating at this time of year, and are absolutely nuts. Two hours later, I’m still shaking, and extremely lucky to have escaped a serious injury.

I don’t know if  it would have avoided a collision, because they were running sooo fast, but you can be sure that my next car with be a smart one, with sensors and an automatic braking system like the ones on TMercedes, BMWs and high-end Hyundai‘s.  Here’s something where the smart version wouldn’t just simplify something, but would observe one of my “Essential Truths” of the IoT, “what can you do now that you couldn’t do before.”

No driver who was focused on the road ahead could have possibly seen these deer rushing out of the pitch-black woods on the other side of the road (or, if he did, he would have crashed into something else because of taking his eyes off the road), but a motion-sensor coupled to the brakes would have detected motion in time to apply the brakes and maybe avoid the crash.

Tonight was one of the most traumatic events of my life, between the accident and the first time I’ve ever heard a gunshot up close, as the police put the doe out of her misery. If I can invest in IoT technology to avoid it happening again, I’ll be at the head of the line!