Category Archives: Smart City

IoT World 2017

I have spent the last week in Santa Clara attending the IoT World conference hoping to see what was new and exciting in the world of IoT. After tracking this sector for a while now it has been interesting to see all the new platforms (512 and counting) and startups that have popped up.

While I found the keynotes a great window on possible new products by companies I did get a sense that security and privacy did not get the air time it deserves. I attended many of the security sessions and, while interesting, they were more focused on product plugs versus real discussions on how to design and build security into a product. It was more buy my product or platform and you will be secure. That is scary proposition especially when vendor generated standards are used as guideline for self assessment. Lets be clear folks, vendors have their best interest at heart not yours when it comes to security.

I was also troubled by vendors stating that if customers just pay more they can add  security. This is the wrong view from an executive and security perspective. The right view, in my humble opinion, should be here is what we identified as the threat profile for our products and solutions and here is how we designed security and privacy into our products and services from day one. Oh and it did not significantly increase the price of the product!

I really wanted to tell some of the top brass that lawyers are attending ISO security standards meetings globally and are planning to use standards such as those in ISO/IEC SC 27 and IEC 62443 as the base line for controls that will be expected in IoT solutions. In the event of a compromise or data breach and the ensuing lawsuit, these same corporations will be held to task on how they meet these requirements and controls. So by all means keep working on your vendor association standards but realize the actual yardstick are the ISO/IEC standards.

On the more positive side of conference, I really liked that NASA is going out its way to make software freely available to community. The breadth of expertise that has gone into some of this software is quite remarkable. I was also really impressed with the Samsung Artik HW and platform and how far it has developed in a short time. It really is making its mark as a contender in IIoT, smart cities and power generation sectors. I even signed up for the developer program and plan to buy some of the dev boards so we can start evaluating this platform for some of our projects. Other notable things were the use of embedded tags and sensors on products, and how to test just about every component being designed and built. If you are in Santa Clara next year, I recommend that you attend the vendor exhibit for next year’s show to see all the development and new products. It would of been good to see Apple and other product companies show where they going in these areas but I will keep my fingers crossed for next year.

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What Makes Industrial Control Systems a Target for Attack?

There is a great article from Trend Micro on why attackers target Industrial Control Systems (ICS) and how the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) will affect it. This is worth knowing as ICS is used to describe dissimilar types of control systems and associated instrumentation, which include the devices, systems, networks, and controls used to operate and/or automate industrial processes.  ICS are used in almost every industrial sector and critical infrastructure from manufacturing, transportation, energy, and water treatment to running the power grid, regulating energy use in a building or managing the process of brewing beer.

At a presentation I gave at Cyber Security 2017: Securing the Smart City of the Future I spoke about the anatomy of an attack but didn’t get into the details as to the motivation or technicalities. ICS have been with us for more than a few years but recent modernization has created new ways for these systems to communicate with their controller. This has improved overall productivity but not security. New security issues have arisen that can be exploited by cybercriminals including:

  • Components that were not meant to be for public access are now accessible via the Internet.
  • Security and privacy features that were not considered by solution architects and engineers at design time.
  • Threat modelling not conducted either by the component manufacture or the solution provider.
  • Products that are not required to be fully tested or assessed to provide a minimum level of assurance or security.
  • Installations that were not formally evaluated for cyber risk prior to deployment.
  • An implicit trust at the systems operational level that all components are safe.

Increased aggressive targeting of these will impact many areas including smart cities, smart manufacturing, smart infrastructure projects and even our soon to be smart homes and cars unless we can get control of these issues. In many cases of these attacks data risk is the least of our worries as they could potentially result in injury or death. To deal with this comprehensively everyone in the product and service chain must play their part:

  1. Manufacturers need to ensure that their products are designed with security, privacy and safety in mind. This includes a multitude of aspects depending on the product being developed. Only through comprehensive threat modelling at design time will they fully understand how attacks can happen in the field and the necessary controls that will be required.
  1. Implementers need to conduct security testing and evaluation at all stages of the project to ensure that systems are not misconfigured or prone to attack once in the field.
  1. Customers whether they are a city manager, a building manager or an information security manager need to better understand the risks to their specific deployments including how to perform Threat & Risk Assessment (TRAs) and Privacy Impact Assessments (PIAs).

Always remember that security is more than a technology you can just implement. Attempting to protect bad coding and engineering practices with a badly configured firewall will just end up in an attack succeeding.

Lastly, the authors of the article reference the NIST Security Guide for ICS, I would recommend that you also look at IEC 62443. Why? It was written so that an ICS company (vendor, implementer or purchaser) could be evaluated and tested against stringent controls for risk. This wide series of standards covers the breath of deployment and in-field issues that need to be considered and assessed against. It forces all parties involved to get their act together and ensure they have important aspects such as integrating activities across the Software Development Life Cycle (to help discover and reduce vulnerabilities early and build security in) and operational security policies and procedures. You might be surprised how many don’t.

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The Smart City Under Attack – CBoC Presentation

I recently got an opportunity to speak at the Conference Board of Canada’s Securing the Smart City of the Future. It was great to be able to speak to those dealing with the daunting challenge of managing the issues related to security, privacy and safety risks while still providing smart city services.

It is clear that the potential benefits of fully-connected smart cities fed by sensors and data are significant especially when seen in the advance of the Internet of Things (IoT). These benefits could tackle some of the greatest problems with urbanization such as traffic congestion, inefficient use of energy, and pollution. As great as these potential benefits are so are the risks and unanswered questions that the integration of new technology brings. Countries looking to implement smart city initiatives need to have a national policy that mandates aspects of security, privacy and safety. This policy should include the following as a minimum:

  • Requirements for an Information Security Management System (ISMS).
  • City breach plans for emergency services, vendors, citizens, etc.
  • Security tested components and solutions that are validated prior to release.
  • “Assurance” from solution providers and vendors for their products/services.
  • Buyers requesting that products and solutions be evaluated.
  • Demand Threat & Risk Assessment (TRAs) and Privacy Impact Assessments (PIAs) for all solutions prior to deployment by City Managers.
  • Respect for the privacy of citizens.

The security breaches in the recent past and the ongoing increase in cyber attacks and crime have made one thing very clear: In building the smart cities of tomorrow we need to be smart! Bearing this in mind, what is the biggest barrier to smart city entry?

The biggest barrier seems to be security and privacy of the sensors and data – the very things that make a city smart. The concern seems to be around data breach and how to minimize the exposure of the sensors in-field. However, in the past year or so there seems to have been a shift in the mind set of what is more important: a $5 sensor or the data we collect on people and objects. Clearly the data protection is more important. An example would be smart city projects in Canada that want to provide more real-time information to citizens about services and conditions. It requires them to track citizens to offer this service which means that there are substantial privacy concerns. The client can share lots of data but if it becomes compromised the city collecting it is liable under new legislation in Canada. Cities are taking the time to understand the risks and prepare for the eventuality of data breach and invasion of privacy.

You can see presentation that I gave below. As always if you have any questions about the presentation, please do not hesitate to contact us for clarification.

 

CB0C A Smart City Under Attack – TwelveDot

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