Bits from Bill

Technology thoughts leaking from the brain of "Bill Pytlovany"

Friday, August 14, 2015

Network Connected Devices

One of the new terms I often hear is "Internet of Things". I'm not a huge fan of this terminology but it does indicate a trend towards many new devices that are connected to the Internet but don't represent your typical computer. The number of devices that now are connected to home networks or business networks has grown substantially.

Unfortunately in many cases security has been an afterthought with new Internet connected devices. This was demonstrated recently when the car company Audi recalled the many years of vehicles which contained network connected devices that could be used to control functions within the car. Nobody ever imagined someone with a computer could change the speed, the steering, or the breaking mechanisms which were now enhanced by the automobile. One of the issues that surprised me the most was the sound system could actually be used as an interface to the car's computer network.

Having devices controlled by a smart phone or laptop is not a bad idea. As long as the interface with devices includes major security protections I'll be one of the first to invest in them. Even now many companies fail trying to secure smart phones and personal computers. Seems like every week a new vulnerability is discovered and we all hear of unwanted users  taking control of devices we depend on.

Having a background in discovering vulnerabilities and a knowledge of the new computer language "ARM", BillP Studios has been asked to research a number of network connected devices. So far, we have discovered potential vulnerabilities in home thermostats, security cameras, automatic garage door openers, lawn sprinkler systems, water meters and popular printers available through the internet.

Johnson Controls Automated Water Meter with Leak Detection

Other devices being researched include IV poles used in hospitals to control distribution of fluids and medication. While hospital equipment vulnerabilities have not been found here, others have reported this failure. Hospitals are being warned to remove certain equipment. Additional research is being done on home appliances such as washers, dryers and microwave ovens. We've looked hard at home alarm systems, devices used for television streaming, gasoline pumps, solar panels, home routers, and communication devices including police, fire, and other emergency management systems.

Ultimately, having many of these devices monitored and controlled via the Internet is a great feature to have available. These devices and their remote functionality fall into that category of computers that actually make our life easier. Obviously, all of these devices are useless if they can't be used in a secure manner.

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