Feeds

Vint Cerf: 'The internet of things needs to be locked down'

Your air conditioner is a national security threat

Build a business case: developing custom apps

RSA 2013 Device manufacturers who are sticking internet connections into everything from TVs to toasters need to lock down their systems with strong authentication, Google's chief internet evangelist Vint Cerf warned the RSA keynote audience.

Cerf said he was "frankly astonished" at the range of devices that now come with an internet connection. Back in the 1980s at the Interop conference, people used to joke about having an internet-enabled toaster, but you can now buy one in the shops. Internet-enabled air conditioners, light bulbs, and fridges are all available.

But there has been very little work to lock down these devices, Cerf said, and this must be addressed. While an internet fridge isn't much of a threat, it and other systems could be hacked, and the results could range from the simply irritating to the catastrophic.

He cited the use of internet-equipped air-conditioning systems. If a hacker could get control of the nation's aircon units, and cycle between shutting them down and whacking them up to full, you might be able to crash the US power grid, Cerf suggested.

Such a possibility is remote, and would be well in the future, but requires thought now, he said. Just as encryption that relies on factoring needs to fear the looming threat of quantum computing, so too the internet of things needs to be equipped with much stronger authentication, he concluded. ®

Bootnote

The internet-equipped toaster has become the stuff of technology legend, but one was actually built in 1990, after the president of Interop Dan Lynch bet John Romkey, who built the first TCP/IP stack for IBM PC in 1982, that he couldn't manage to build one. If he could manage it, Lynch promised him a top keynote spot at the following year's conference.

Never one to back away from a tech challenge, Romkey and a friend took a Sunbeam Deluxe Automatic Radiant Control Toaster and added TCP/IP and a Simple Networking Management Protocol Management Information Base controller. It went on display in 1990, and got an upgrade in 1991 with the addition of an internet-controlled robotic arm to load it with bread.

The essential guide to IT transformation

More from The Register

next story
Rupert Murdoch says Google is worse than the NSA
Mr Burns vs. The Chocolate Factory, round three!
e-Borders fiasco: Brits stung for £224m after US IT giant sues UK govt
Defeat to Raytheon branded 'catastrophic result'
Know what Ferguson city needs right now? It's not Anonymous doxing random people
U-turn on vow to identify killer cop after fingering wrong bloke
Germany 'accidentally' snooped on John Kerry and Hillary Clinton
Dragnet surveillance picks up EVERYTHING, USA, m'kay?
Snowden on NSA's MonsterMind TERROR: It may trigger cyberwar
Plus: Syria's internet going down? That was a US cock-up
Who needs hackers? 'Password1' opens a third of all biz doors
GPU-powered pen test yields more bad news about defences and passwords
Think crypto hides you from spooks on Facebook? THINK AGAIN
Traffic fingerprints reveal all, say boffins
prev story

Whitepapers

Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Solving today's distributed Big Data backup challenges
Enable IT efficiency and allow a firm to access and reuse corporate information for competitive advantage, ultimately changing business outcomes.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.