Global IoT round-up: Botnets, security patches and more

28 Apr 2017

Image: PowerUp/Shutterstock

IoT news this week revolves around security, and how fruitless certain protections may prove to be.

Despite happening six years ago, IBM’s AI system IBM Watson is still best known for taking on humans in the American game show, Jeopardy!

Now it is trying its hand at being a detective in the financial sector in order to spot any potential rogue traders.

Referred to as Watson Financial Services, the new product will become a monitoring tool within companies to search through every trader’s emails and chats, combining it with the trading data on the floor.

The objective? To see if there are any correlations between suspicious conversations online and activity that could be construed as rogue trading.

Elsewhere, a discussion into how technology and design can break down barriers for people living with intellectual disabilities or autism was held at University of Limerick this week.

It’s also a question that has piqued the interest of Prof Lizbeth Goodman, who has worked for decades on new ways to apply technology tools such as VR, which can engage and empower people with intellectual disabilities and autism.

“We believe that design should be inclusive; that technology and innovation must be personalised from the start to address the needs of all potential users without assuming any ‘norm’ from which some people will be seen to ‘deviate’,” Goodman said.

But what else did you miss this week?

Hajime, the next big botnet

How many bots need to work together to justify concern among the cybersecurity industry? Let’s just say that 300,000 is more than enough.

That’s the estimated figure behind Hajime, the next big botnet in the internet of things (IoT), and one that is causing numerous headaches throughout the world. The main headache, it seems, is cybersecurity experts wondering why.

Why is it infecting devices, and why is it then doing nothing?

Hajime uses the same list of username and password combinations as Mirai, the IoT botnet that wreaked widespread havoc on the internet last year.

“The most intriguing thing about Hajime is its purpose,” said Konstantin Zykov, senior security researcher at Kaspersky Lab.

“While the botnet is getting bigger and bigger, its objective remains unknown. We have not seen its traces in any type of attack or additional malicious activity.”

Once Hajime infects a connected device such as a camera or DVR, the malware blocks access to four ports known to be the most widely used vectors for infecting IoT devices.

According to Ars Technica, it also displays a cryptographically signed message on infected device terminals, describing its creator as “just a white hat, securing some systems”.

Cloudflare fights back

Also this week, Cloudflare released Orbit, its latest approach to securing IoT devices. With Orbit, IoT manufacturers add an additional layer of security on top of the individual internet-connected devices.

This essentially ups the base security on the device.

“The PC-era model of on-device security didn’t work very well for PCs and definitely won’t scale to protect the internet of things,” said Matthew Prince, co-founder and CEO of Cloudflare.

“Cloudflare Orbit is already protecting more than 120m IoT devices, and provides a new approach to security that can scale to meet the needs of an increasingly networked world.”

Robots can see you

Kingston University experts are investigating how AI vision systems, inspired by the human eye, could be used in future robots.

The thinking is that an increased ability to see autonomously could further science in industries everywhere, from forestry and marine studies right up to space exploration.

The three-year research project, in collaboration with King’s College London and University College London, will examine how data from these state-of-the-art cameras could be captured, compressed and transmitted between machines at a fraction of the current energy cost.

The £1.3m project will use newly developed dynamic visual sensors, which drastically reduce computing power and data storage requirements by only updating the parts of an image where movement occurs.

Rajant and Mitsui team up

Finally, Rajant and Mitsui USA (the subsidiary of the Japanese Mitsui) are partnering to jointly develop and market Rajant’s Kinetic Mesh wireless networks.

“We’re looking forward to leveraging the IIoT expertise and deep experience in information assurance and security of Rajant to meet the needs of existing and new markets,” said Kiichiro Takanami of Mitsui USA.

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Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic