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How to secure the Smart City

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Smart cities will help both the private and public sector excel in many areas, but as helpful they are, they also come with many security risks. PERRY HUTTON, Regional Vice President – Africa at Fortinet, outlines five security areas CIOs need to watch out for.

Car navigation systems that can predict where and when traffic jams might occur, by siphoning data from sensors in roads and other vehicles. Cameras that can spot litter in public places and call in the cleaning crew. Self-adjusting street lamps.

These are just a few of the scenarios that could become commonplace as smart cities take hold over the next few years. Driven by rising urbanisation and fuelled by technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and data analytics, smart cities are on the cusp of explosive growth. Glasgow, Barcelona, Nice, New York City, London and Singapore have already embarked on the trek. The smart city technology market could be worth US$27.5 billion annually by 2023, according to Navigant Research.

Smart city initiatives are driven by public sector initiatives. However, they will have a big impact on businesses. CIOs will have to learn how to tap on the new connected city infrastructure for their business. Smart city technologies like IoT and data analytics are expected to drive innovative business ideas in the future.

But the new wave of smart city services and technologies are also expected to create new security vulnerabilities. Here are five areas CIOs should watch out for.

1.  A further fragmentation of IT

The last few years saw a rapid proliferation of cloud services and mobile device adoption in the workplace. The trend has transformed business productivity. But it has also wrecked the tight-fisted control that CIOs used to be able to exert on their IT systems.

CIOs now have to grapple with the idea of employees using unsanctioned cloud services via unsecured phones to hook up to corporate servers and accessing sensitive business data. The expected explosion of IoT devices − researchers estimate that by 2020, the number of active wireless connected devices will exceed 40 billion worldwide − will result in a further fragmentation of IT in businesses.

Instead of fighting the losing battle of trying to lock down devices and services, CIOs should look at protecting the data. Look for IoT devices that offer device-to-device encryption. Consider implementing − as well as bolstering − comprehensive encryption schemes to protect data in networks, cloud services and endpoint devices.

2. Device vulnerabilities

In the past year, security researchers have exposed holes in Wi-Fi-enabled Barbie dolls, Jeep Cherokee cars, fitness trackers and other new-fangled connected devices. Fortinet’s FortiGuard Labs already see IoT based attacks on the radar and happening in real time around the world. This shows the risks that are coming as toys, wearables, cars and power grids get attached to sensors that are linked to a common network and the Web.

IoT will bring forth a larger surface attack. Hackers will eye IoT devices as a launching pad for ‘land-and-expand’ attacks. One scenario: hackers take advantage of vulnerabilities in connected consumer devices to get a foothold within the corporate networks and hardware to which they connect.

So how do CIOs protect against the risks of connected devices and their own IoT implementations? Short of physically separating such devices from all other network systems, they can consider deploying network-based protection schemes. Internal segmentation firewalls, or ISFWs, for instance, can mitigate the proliferation of threats inside the business network. They also need to employ an IoT network security solution which is capable of mitigating exploits against this growing and vulnerable attack surface. IoT vendors need to harden their products and develop proper product security (PSIRT) teams.

3. IoT gateways can be exploited

In a typical IoT deployment, the majority of connected devices will be always connected and always on. Unlike mobile phones and laptops, such devices are likely to go through only a one-time authentication process across multiple sessions. This will make them attractive to hackers looking to infiltrate into company networks, as it allows easy  control and sniffing of traffic.  Shoring up the security of the gateways that connect IoT devices is therefore a must. CIOs should map out where these gateways are and where they are linked to − they can reside internally or externally, and even be connected to IoT device manufacturers. There must also be a sound plan for updating security patches on these gateways, as well as the IoT devices.

4. Big data, more risks

If there is a constant in smart city deployments, it is that more data will be generated, processed and stored. Connected devices will generate huge data repositories. Businesses that adopt big data systems will see an even larger data deluge. Unfortunately, such data will also become attractive targets for corporate hackers. To protect huge amounts of data with large inflows and outflows, the bandwidth capabilities of security appliances will come to the fore. And when dealing with data analytics, it often isn’t just a single data set, but multiple repositories of data that may be combined and analyzed together by different groups of people. For instance, a pharmaceutical company’s research efforts may be open to employees, contractors and interns. This means individual access and auditing rights.

5. A new can of worms

New worms designed to attach to IoT devices will emerge − and they could wreak more havoc given the extended reach of the new converged networks. Conficker is an example of a worm that spread on PC’s in 2008 and is still persistent and prevalent in 2016. Likewise, worms and viruses that can propagate from device to device can be expected to emerge – particularly with mobile and the Android operating system. Embedded worms will spread by leveraging and exploiting vulnerabilities in the growing IoT and mobile attack surface. The largest botnet FortiGuard labs has witnessed is in the range of 15 million PC’s. Thanks to the internet of things, this can easily reach in excess of 50 million if the spread of IoT worms is not properly mitigated. Patch management, and network based security inspection – particularly intrusion prevention systems or IPS – that can block IoT worms is a must.

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When will we stop calling them phones?

If you don’t remember when phones were only used to talk to people, you may wonder why we still use this term for handsets, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK, on the eve of the 10th birthday of the app.

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Do you remember when handsets were called phones because, well, we used them to phone people?

It took 120 years from the invention of the telephone to the use of phones to send text.

Between Alexander Graham Bell coining the term “telephone” in 1876 and Finland’s two main mobile operators allowing SMS messages between consumers in 1995, only science fiction writers and movie-makers imagined instant communication evolving much beyond voice. Even when BlackBerry shook the business world with email on a phone at the end of the last century, most consumers were adamant they would stick to voice.

It’s hard to imagine today that the smartphone as we know it has been with us for less than 10 years. Apple introduced the iPhone, the world’s first mass-market touchscreen phone, in June 2007, but it is arguable that it was the advent of the app store in July the following year that changed our relationship with phones forever.

That was the moment when the revolution in our hands truly began, when it became possible for a “phone” to carry any service that had previously existed on the World Wide Web.

Today, most activity carried out by most people on their mobile devices would probably follow the order of social media in first place – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn all jostling for attention – and  instant messaging in close second, thanks to WhatsApp, Messenger, SnapChat and the like. Phone calls – using voice that is – probably don’t even take third place, but play fourth or fifth fiddle to mapping and navigation, driven by Google Maps and Waze, and transport, thanks to Uber, Taxify, and other support services in South Africa like MyCiti,  Admyt and Kaching.

Despite the high cost of data, free public Wi-Fi is also seeing an explosion in use of streaming video – whether Youtube, Netflix, Showmax, or GETblack – and streaming music, particularly with the arrival of Spotify to compete with Simfy Africa.

Who has time for phone calls?

The changing of the phone guard in South Africa was officially signaled last week with the announcement of Vodacom’s annual results. Voice revenue for the 2018 financial year ending 31 March had fallen by 4.6%, to make up 40.6% of Vodacom’s revenue. Total revenue had grown by 8.1%, which meant voice seriously underperformed the group, and had fallen by 4% as a share of revenue, from 2017’s 44.6%.

The reason? Data had not only outperformed the group, increasing revenue by 12.8%, but it had also risen from 39.7% to 42.8% of group revenue,

This means that data has not only outperformed voice for the first time – as had been predicted by World Wide Worx a year ago – but it has also become Vodacom’s biggest contributor to revenue.

That scenario is being played out across all mobile network operators. In the same way, instant messaging began destroying SMS revenues as far back as five years ago – to the extent that SMS barely gets a mention in annual reports.

Data overtaking voice revenues signals the demise of voice as the main service and key selling point of mobile network operators. It also points to mobile phones – let’s call them handsets – shifting their primary focus. Voice quality will remain important, but now more a subset of audio quality rather than of connectivity. Sound quality will become a major differentiator as these devices become primary platforms for movies and music.

Contact management, privacy and security will become critical features as the handset becomes the storage device for one’s entire personal life.

Integration with accessories like smartwatches and activity monitors, earphones and earbuds, virtual home assistants and virtual car assistants, will become central to the functionality of these devices. Why? Because the handsets will control everything else? Hardly.

More likely, these gadgets will become an extension of who we are, what we do and where we are. As a result, they must be context aware, and also context compatible. This means they must hand over appropriate functions to appropriate devices at the appropriate time. 

I need to communicate only using my earpiece? The handset must make it so. I have to use gesture control, and therefore some kind of sensor placed on my glasses, collar or wrist? The handset must instantly surrender its centrality.

There are numerous other scenarios and technology examples, many out of the pages of science fiction, that point to the changing role of the “phone”. The one thing that’s obvious is that it will be silly to call it a phone for much longer.

  • Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter on @art2gee and on YouTube
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MTN 5G test gets 520Mbps

MTN and Huawei have launched Africa’s first 5G field trial with an end-to-end Huawei 5G solution.

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The field trial demonstrated a 5G Fixed-Wireless Access (FWA) use case with Huawei’s 5G 28GHz mmWave Customer Premises Equipment (CPE) in a real-world environment in Hatfield Pretoria, South Africa. Speeds of 520Mbps downlink and 77Mbps uplink were attained throughout respectively.

“These 5G trials provide us with an opportunity to future proof our network and prepare it for the evolution of these new generation networks. We have gleaned invaluable insights about the modifications that we need to do on our core, radio and transmission network from these pilots. It is important to note that the transition to 5G is not just a flick of a switch, but it’s a roadmap that requires technical modifications and network architecture changes to ensure that we meet the standards that this technology requires. We are pleased that we are laying the groundwork that will lead to the full realisation of the boundless opportunities that are inherent in the digital world.” says Babak Fouladi, Group Chief Technology & Information Systems Officer, at MTN Group.

Giovanni Chiarelli, Chief Technology and Information Officer for MTN SA said: “Next generation services such as virtual and augmented reality, ultra-high definition video streaming, and cloud gaming require massive capacity and higher user data rates. The use of millimeter-wave spectrum bands is one of the key 5G enabling technologies to deliver the required capacity and massive data rates required for 5G’s Enhanced Mobile Broadband use cases. MTN and Huawei’s joint field trial of the first 5G mmWave Fixed-Wireless Access solution in Africa will also pave the way for a fixed-wireless access solution that is capable of replacing conventional fixed access technologies, such as fibre.”

“Huawei is continuing to invest heavily in innovative 5G technologies”, said Edward Deng, President of Wireless Network Product Line of Huawei. “5G mmWave technology can achieve unprecedented fiber-like speed for mobile broadband access. This trial has shown the capabilities of 5G technology to deliver exceptional user experience for Enhanced Mobile Broadband applications. With customer-centric innovation in mind, Huawei will continue to partner with MTN to deliver best-in-class advanced wireless solutions.”

“We are excited about the potential the technology will bring as well as the potential advancements we will see in the fields of medicine, entertainment and education. MTN has been investing heavily to further improve our network, with the recent “Best in Test” and MyBroadband best network recognition affirming this. With our focus on providing the South Africans with the best customer experience, speedy allocation of spectrum can help bring more of these technologies to our customers,” says Giovanni.

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