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Now for the connected body

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As the Internet of Things evolves and becomes the Internet of Us, Kaspersky Lab has teamed up with Swedish bio-hacking community BioNyfiken to uncover the realities of connecting our bodies to the Internet.

Once confined to Hollywood blockbusters and sci-fi novels, in 2015, the number of humans upgraded by technological devices is increasing in number. Thanks to the invention and wide-spread adoption of implantable aids such as pacemakers, insulin pumps, hearing aids and deep brain stimulation systems, the world is filling with humans who could be considered part machine.

However, recent media reports describe another breed of upgraded human, people who implant technology in their bodies not for medical reasons, but simply because of greater convenience in everyday life; people with smart implants that allow them to control door locks, make purchases and gain access to computer systems with the wave of a hand. The question then arises, when we allow our bodies to contain increasing amounts of personal, hackable data, is there cause for concern?

BioNyfiken, a Sweden based bio-hacking community, is leading the charge in normalising the chipping phenomenon and bringing it to the masses. Their view is that having a smart sub-dermal implant is not so different from wearing an earring or having a tattoo, and that an increasing number of people will choose to have NFC-compatible implants containing an array of information.

Patrick Mylund Nielsen, Senior Security Researcher at Kaspersky Lab said “The trend within the Internet of Things has been to create products and get them to market fast. Security is often an afterthought, if it’s even a thought at all. And although bio-augmentation has been the topic of science fiction for as long as we can remember, not many stories dealt with its everyday implications: What happens when our private keys are under our skin? Can somebody become a virtual copy of me by shaking my hand? Who might be following me everywhere I go? “Nyfiken” means curious in Swedish, and when it comes to answering these questions, indeed we are.”

“The technology is already happening,” says Hannes Sjoblad, one of the founders of BioNyfiken. “We are seeing a fast-growing community of people experimenting with chip implants, which allow users to quickly and easily perform a variety of everyday tasks, such as allowing access to buildings, unlocking personal devices without PIN codes and enabling read access to various types of stored data.”

“I consider the take-off of this technology as another important interface-moment in the history of human-computer interaction, similar to the launches of the first windows desktop or the first touch screen. Identification by touch is innately natural for humans. PIN codes and passwords are not natural. And every additional device that we have to carry around to identify ourselves be it a key fob or a swipe card, is just another item that clutters our lives.”

“That’s why we felt it was crucial to work alongside a leading security expert that really understands the technology to help us analyse the risks. Kaspersky Lab is the ideal research partner for BioNyfiken. They are not only highly regarded security experts and thought leaders, but have been at the forefront of emerging technologies and cutting edge research from their inception.”

“We look forward to working alongside Kaspersky Lab experts in an open research project to explore the vulnerabilities of these chips in everyday, human-user situations and if vulnerabilities are found, it will of course be necessary to identify ways to tackle them.”

Further to its research with BioNyfiken, Kaspersky Lab will be co-hosting events with the broader bio-hacking community in Sweden and across Europe, aiming to put security and privacy aspects on the agenda. There are already a number of hi-tech buildings in Sweden, such as Epicenter, catering to forward thinking business where NFC implants are regularly used for a range of activities, replacing additional devices.

Eugene Kaspersky, chairman and CEO of Kaspersky Lab, remarked: “Personally, I’d rather not be chipped. I do however understand that technological progress cannot be hindered and there will be innovators who are ready to accept the risk and test the limits of technology by experimenting on their own bodies. I’d just rather they did this with their eyes open and with security at the forefront of their minds, instead of as a retrofit after-thought, as so often occurs.”

“That’s why I’m pleased that BioNyfiken has chosen us to work with on investigating the security implications of connecting our bodies to the web. It might be that our researchers find no concerns, but if people are going to have NFC chips inside them, I’d want to be sure that the experts had thoroughly investigated all the ramifications”.

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Epic Games brings a
Nite-mare to Android

Epic Games’ decision to not publish games through Google Play inadvertently opens a market to Android virus makers, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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Epic Games, the creator of Fortnite, decided to take the high road by skipping Google Play’s app distribution market and placing a third-party installer for its games on its website. While this is technically fine, it is not recommended for the average user, because allowing third-party installers on one’s smartphone opens up the possibility of non-signed and malicious software to be run on the smartphone. 

In June, malware researchers at ESET warned Android gamers that malicious fake versions of the Fortnite app had been created to steal personal information or damage smartphones. A malware researcher demonstrated how the fake applications works in the Tweet below.

While the decision to bypass Google Play was a bold move on Epic Games’ part, it has been a long time coming for app developers to move their premium apps off Google’s Play Store. The two major app distributors, Google Play and Apple’s App Store, take a 30% cut of every purchase made through their app distribution platforms. 

The App Store is currently the only way to get apps on a non-modified iOS device, which is why Epic Games had no choice for Fortnite to be in the App Store. On the other hand, Android phones can install packages downloaded through the browser, which makes the Play Store almost unnecessary for the gaming company. 

The most interesting part of this development is that Google is not the “bad guy” and Epic Games is no saviour to other game developers. Epic Games is a company with a multi-billion dollar valuation and has resources like large-scale servers to distribute and update its games, a big marketing budget to ensure everyone knows how to get its games, and server security to protect against malware. 

Resources of this scale allow the game company to turn a cold shoulder to Google’s Play Store distribution and focus on its own, in-house solution. 

That said, installing packages without the Google Play Store must be done carefully, and it is essential to do homework on where a package is downloaded. Moreover, when a package is installed outside of the Google Play Store, a security switch to block the installation of third party apps must be turned off. This switch should be turned back on immediately after the third party package is installed. 

This complex amount of steps makes it less worthwhile to install third party apps, in favour of rather waiting for them to reach the Play Store.

From a consumer perspective, ESET recommends not installing packages outside of the Google Play Store and to ignore advertisements to download the game from other sources.

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How to take on IoT

The Internet of Things (IoT) is coming, whether you like it or not and organisations today will look to platforms and services that help them manage and analyse the streams of data coming from connected devices, says RONALD RAVEL, Director B2B South Africa, Toshiba South Africa.

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Today, we are witnessing an explosion in IoT deployments and solutions and are moving towards a world where almost everything you can imagine will be connected. While this opens the door to many possibilities it also comes with its own challenges such as privacy and security.

The Internet has become an integral part of everyday life; it has been a free for all on a daily basis. IoT is a difficult concept for many people to wrap their minds around. Essentially, nearly every business will be affected.

Managing vast quantities of data across increasingly mobile workforces can be tremendously beneficial if done well, but equally can be cumbersome and ineffective if not managed properly. This is why technologies such as mobile edge computing are becoming increasingly popular, helping to increase the prevalence of secure mobile working and data management in the age of IoT.

Unlocking IoT

The evolution of IoT, despite rapid and ongoing technological innovation, is still very much in its fledgling stages. Its potential, though, is demonstrated by the fact that by 2020, Bain anticipates a significant shift in uptake, with roughly 80 per cent of adoptions at that point to have progressed to the stage of either ‘proof of concept’ or extensive implementation. This means that technological innovation in IoT for the enterprise is progressing at a similarly fast rate with many of these solutions being developed with utilities, engineering, manufacturing and logistics companies in mind.

Processing at the edge

For IoT to be adopted at the rate predicted, technology which does not overwhelm current or even legacy systems must be implemented. Mobile edge computing solves this. Such solutions offer processing power at the edge of the network, helping firms with a high proportion of mobile workers to reduce operational strain and latency by processing the most critical data at the edge and close to its originating source. Relevant data can then be sent to the cloud for observation and analysis, thereby reducing the waves of ‘data garbage’ which has to be processed by cloud services.

A logistics manager can feasibly monitor and analyse the efficiency of warehouse operations, for example, with important data calculations carried out in real-time, on location, and key data findings then sent to the cloud for centrally-located data scientists to analyse.

The work of wearables

The potential of IoT means it not only has the scope to change the way people work, but also where they work. While widespread mobile working is a relatively new trend in industries such as banking and professional services, for CIOs in sectors where working on the move is inherent – such as logistics and field maintenance – mobility is high on the agenda.

Wearables – and specifically smart glasses – have started to gain traction within the business world. With mobile edge computing solutions acting as the gateway, smart glasses such as Toshiba’s assisted reality AR 100 viewer solution have been designed to benefit frontline and field-based workers in industries such as utilities, manufacturing and logistics. In the renewable energy sector, for example, a wind turbine engineer conducting repairs may use assisted reality smart glasses to call up the schematics of the turbine to enable a hands-free view of service procedures. This means that when a fault becomes a barrier to repair, the engineer is able to use collaboration software to call for assistance from a remote expert and have additional information sent through, thereby saving time and money by eradicating the need for extra personnel to be sent to the site.

The time is ripe for organisations to look to exploit the age of IoT to improve the productivity and safety of their workers, as well as the end service delivered to customers. In fact, Toshiba’s recent ‘Maximising Mobility’ report found that 49 per cent of organisations believe their sector can benefit from the hands-free functionality of smart glasses, while 47 per cent expect them to deliver improved mobile working and 41 per cent foresee better collaboration and information sharing. Embracing IoT technologies such as mobile edge computing and wearable solutions will be an essential step for many organisations within these verticals as they look to stay on top of 21st century working challenges.

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