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CeBIT: ​Microsoft security chief chilled by Internet of Things fridge-hacking threat

11 Mar 2014
Food in fridge

HANOVER: Everything from cars to fridges will pose security threats as the Internet of Things revolution sees more devices coming online, according to Microsoft’s European security chief.

Cyber criminals will shift their hacks away from businesses and instead begin to look at everyday items, argued Jan Neutze, Microsoft director of cyber security policy for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, in a keynote speech at CeBIT, attended by V3.

“With autonomous systems comes the question: all this data that’s generated, who owns this data and how is that data controlled? Many of those questions aren’t fully resolved," he said.

"What happens when somebody attacks your refrigerator? Who’s going to patch your fridge? Is it the energy company that runs your smartgrid, is it the software company, is it the manufacturer of the device? We’re going to have to look at new models of collaboration that have never existed before."

Concerns about the threats facing a completely connected world have been raised before, with lightbulbs also seen as another point of attack. Some have questioned whether software systems can handle the data that will be created.

Despite these concerns governments are keen to push development in this area, with prime minister David Cameron attending CeBIT earlier in the week to announce a further £45m of funding for research in this area.

On the topic of government surveillance, a key concern for many businesses and consumers, he said that the dialogue between the tech industry and governments was moving slowly. The debate on the issue has been a hot topic since the NSA revelations from whistleblower Edward Snowden last summer, with tech firms criticising prying governments and patching their newly discovered security holes.

Neutze continued: “I used to work at the United Nations in New York and I can tell you with certainty that the dialogue is not happening at a pace that is required. What we need is a global dialogue.

“Governments are users just like all of us, and they have traditionally been the protectors of cyberspace. But is also becoming very evident that governments are the exploiters of cyberspace. As an industry we are thinking very hard [about] how we can protect users from a technical side by doing a number of things with encryption. We do need a much more robust dialogue on the policy side.”

Neutze’s comments come as European governments also look to speed up the process of creating a more robust set of security principles to give businesses and consumers confidence that their data will remain secure.

On Monday evening Edward Snowden urged the technology sector to take the lead on the issues his leaks had thrown up, arguing that tech professionals have more ability to solve the issues than governments.

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Michael Passingham

Michael Passingham joined V3 as a reporter in June 2013. Prior to working at V3, Michael spent time at computing magazine PC Pro. Michael covers IT skills, social media, tech startups and also produces V3's video content.

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