Cisco offers $300,000 for “visionary” solutions to defend ‘Internet of Things’

Networking giant Cisco has launched a “grand challenge” to invent a security solution for the “internet of things” – a broad term used to describe connected devices from industrial equipment to cars to smart home appliances.

The Internet of Things Security Challenge offers a prize pot of $300,000 to “visionaries, innovators and implementers”, with up to six awards ranging from $70,000 to $50,000, as described in a Cisco blog post here.

The ‘internet of things’ hit headlines recently after Belkin’s Popular WeMo smart home system was found to have security flaws which could allow attackers to switch off lights in homes remotely, deactivate motion sensors, and even start fires, as reported by We Live Security here.

Chris Young, senior VP of security at Cisco, said in a blog post, ““We’re connecting more of our world every day through smart, IP-enabled devices ranging from home appliances, healthcare devices, and industrial equipment. These new connected devices are offering new ways to share information and are changing the way we live. For example, in the healthcare sector, it’s easy to imagine how Internet-connected devices and systems are revolutionizing patient care. In the transportation sector, technologists are already connecting vehicles and their subsystems to the Internet. It is also, unfortunately, too easy to imagine how these world-changing developments could go terribly wrong when attacked or corrupted by bad actors.”

The winning entries will be announced at the Internet of Things World Forum later this year – a Cisco-hosted event which premiered last year. Entrants will be ranked on whether their solutions can apply across fields as diverese as manufacturing, transport, healthcare and energy, as well as the feasibility and performance of their entries.

ZDNet comments that for many businesses, connecting devices is desirable as a way to build up large amounts of data, but that, thus far, security has been weak, saying, “If a cyberattacker is able to break in to one such system, they potentially can harm thousands of people with little effort,” citing the example of connected door locks as a potential risk.

In a speech last week, CIA Director John Brennan said that connected appliances and networked vehicles will make the agency’s job harder, as reported by We Live Security here – with more systems to protect, and more platforms which could be used to launch attacks.

Brennan, speaking at President Barack Obama’s Associates Dinner at the University of Oklahoma said that cyber issues were becoming increasingly central to the CIA’s mission, and that Brennan said, “We also are concerned that new vulnerabilities will develop as cars, home appliances, and other physical objects become more integrated into information networks.”

“As we move closer to what some are calling an “Internet of Things,” there will be more devices and systems to protect—and, equally worrisome, more that can be used to launch attacks.”

Several security researchers have shown off ‘hacks’ which can remotely take over the software in vehicles – and CNBC described such attacks as potentially forming a new “global cybercrime wave.”

At this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, ‘smart homes’ were clearly a big trend on the show floor – and much debate was ignited about their security.

The normally sober BBC warned, “In the future, it might not just be your smartphone that leaks personal and private data, it might be your smart fridge too.”

But ESET Senior Research Fellow David Harley said in a commentary post at the time, “It may be a little early to worry too much about what your fridge or your medicine cupboard is able to reveal to a hacker about your eating habits and the state of your health,” Harley says.

“After all, there are all too many more direct ways for retailers, insurance companies, and pharmaceutical companies to get that sort of information. (And those are issues more people should be worried about.)”

Author Rob Waugh, We Live Security

  • Stevo8800 .

    Security is becoming more of a scam as the days go by. Security for internet of things? really lol Things is a good way to describe hardware and software… No wonder people are paranoid now a days after reading reviews like this one. If you’re worried about someone hacking your fridge, I’m sorry to tell you this but you might need a mental hospital. Yea I’m going to hack my neighbours lights so I can turn them off and on because I’m brain dead… I guess lighting a match or lighter now a days is too much work for someone to even attempt to burn down your house.

    • http://dharley.wordpress.com/ David Harley

      Well, no-one can access _my_ fridge, TV or lights over the internet, and I don’t expect that to change. Water meter, I’m not sure, but it doesn’t keep me awake at night. But there is potential there for people who have the money and passion for gadgetry..

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