Feeds

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

Your air conditioner is a national security threat

Security for virtualized datacentres

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.

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
NASTY SSL 3.0 vuln to be revealed soon – sources (Update: It's POODLE)
So nasty no one's even whispering until patch is out
Russian hackers exploit 'Sandworm' bug 'to spy on NATO, EU PCs'
Fix imminent from Microsoft for Vista, Server 2008, other stuff
Microsoft pulls another dodgy patch
Redmond makes a hash of hashing add-on
'LulzSec leader Aush0k' found to be naughty boy not worthy of jail
15 months home detention leaves egg on feds' faces as they grab for more power
Forget passwords, let's use SELFIES, says Obama's cyber tsar
Michael Daniel wants to kill passwords dead
FBI boss: We don't want a backdoor, we want the front door to phones
Claims it's what the Founding Fathers would have wanted – catching killers and pedos
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.