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Fujitsu CTO sees the lighter side of Internet of Things security concerns

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Dr Joseph Reger of Fujitsu brandishes a smart light bulb

MUNICH: Afraid of the dark? Perhaps you should be afraid of the lights. That's the twisted future envisioned by light bulb-wielding Fujitsu chief technology officer Joseph Reger.

Patrolling the floors of the Fujitsu Forum in Germany, Dr Reger explained to onlookers how one of the most innocuous objects in your house could become part of a global attack.

The Internet of Things, perhaps one of the most highly-talked about technologies nobody in the real world actually uses, is expected to take hold within the next decade, and with it will inevitably come cyber threats, as with any new technology. Reger chose to use intelligent light bulbs as an example:

"I'm not concerned about someone hacking into your home and turning off your lights," he said. We at V3 are very concerned about that, for the record. "What I'm talking about is that someone hacking into your home and looking at the usage pattern of your light bulbs and determining whether you're on vacation. And when it might be a good time to break in."

Such concerns have been voiced before with Philips' Hue lightbulb singled out as a cause for concern by security researchers. Reger went further, though, to envision a world of slave lightbulbs run by some sort of domestic super villain.

"If this light bulb is a little bit more intelligent, if they're intelligent enough, you can inject malicious code into the bulb itself if it's not protected properly. What's the problem with that? All of a sudden I have an army of attackers I've just programmed and I can launch a denial of service attack on anybody using billions of soldiers."

We've heard this described before in the form of toaster armies mining the currency Bitcoin - and perhaps the metaphors are getting out of hand - we're sure Reger knows this, and we have to say we enjoyed his demonstration.

The real point here is that we haven't moved on from this novelty, this funny notion of light bulbs stealing your lunch money and laughing at you. In the world of business and industry, machine-to-machine communication is commonplace. That's not to say it isn't serious either - a recent UK government report highlighted the notion of a need for a ramping up of security among connected machines.

So, who to believe? It's very difficult to know exactly how much of a threat these things are, especially because the amount of people with intelligent light bulbs in there home is so low crooks probably couldn't even DDoS your mum's laptop.

Until there's more of this stuff out there, we can't know for sure what possibilities - positive or negative - IoT can offer.

By V3's Michael Passingham, whose army of fridges is coming along nicely

06 Nov 2013

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