IoT global round-up: Hackers run riot as hotels and US police hit

3 Feb 2017

CCTV camera monitoring traffic. Image: FUN FUN PHOTO/Shutterstock

It was a week in which the fragile security of the internet of things ecosystem was exposed. Hackers found a way into Austrian hotel rooms, and infected Washington DC police cameras.

While 5G is envisioned as the future of the internet of things (IoT), Telstra customers in Australia will be getting something a little more feasible in the short term, thanks to the launch of gigabit LTE connectivity in three major cities.

The mobile network revealed it had partnered with a number of telecoms and semiconductor giants, including Ericsson and Qualcomm, to allow users within the major business districts of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane to achieve speeds of around 895Mbps.

Ericsson’s head of radio, Per Narvinger, said that this makes Australia the first country in the world to switch on such a service, and it will allow for a “smoother journey to 5G”.

Meanwhile, editor John Kennedy filled us in on the latest developments in the world of industrial IoT (IIoT), where industry leaders described an existing world reliant on the technology, not a future one.

“If you think of the changes in cars going forward – autonomous driving, anti-collision systems etc – there are power needs that are critical that you can’t lose. Otherwise, catastrophic things could happen,” said Donal Sullivan, VP and general manager at Johnson Controls in Cork.

“There are lots of different parts of our business that are connected in really interesting ways.”

So what else might you have missed during the week?

Austrian hotel shut out by hackers, quite literally

One of Europe’s largest luxury hotels found itself on the end of an online hostage situation over an undiscovered vulnerability in its electronic key system.

According to Austrian news site The Local, the Romantik Seehotel Jaegerwirt, located in the picturesque Alps range, was hit by a cyberattack that resulted in all its guests being locked out of their rooms.

Activating the door-locking mechanism remotely, the hackers were able to send the hotel into chaos during the height of the ski season, while also shutting down the hotel’s entire computer system.

To give control back to the hotel, the hackers demanded a sum of €1,500 to be paid in bitcoin, otherwise its guests were going to be sleeping in the hallways.

Given the circumstances, hotel management relented and paid the ransom, but unbeknownst to them, the hackers had built in a backdoor to their fix, which resulted in two further hacks.

The hotel said it plans to make sure it can never happen again.

“We are planning at the next room refurbishment for old-fashioned door locks with real keys,” management said. “Just like 111 years ago, at the time of our great-grandfathers.”

Hackers infest Washington DC police CCTV camera servers

In the days preceding Donald Trump’s inauguration as the president of the US, Washington DC’s police force was scrambling to clear an infestation from its CCTV camera servers, which had been hit by a remote attack.

According to The Washington Post, unknown hackers were able to infect 123 out of 187 network video recorder servers that monitor major public spaces in the city.

While issuing a statement denying any physical threat to anyone in the nation’s capital as a result of the breach, the malware meant all of the affected cameras stopped recording until a complete reboot of the system was run.

As it turned out, the hackers had orchestrated a ransomware attack to seek payment from the police force.

The city’s CTO, Archana Vemulapalli, said that the attack was not widespread, but was localised entirely within the city’s camera network.

The department also confirmed that no ransom had been paid to the hackers.

IoT market to reach €250bn by 2020

A report on the future value of IoT released by the Boston Consulting Group this week estimated that in three years’ time, the sensor and data market will be worth a total of €250bn.

When 2020 comes around, it is also envisioned that half of all IoT spending will be focused on IIoT, particularly within logistics, transportation and manufacturing.

Data analytics within the scope of IoT is also expected to be a very lucrative business, worth an estimated €20bn in the same time frame.

One interesting finding made by the report’s authors is the threat facing the many established tech and manufacturing companies who are attempting to transition into an IoT ecosystem.

According to the report, 40pc of IoT customers today are more likely to go to newer – yet more established – software companies over traditional corporations.

It noted that companies such as Intel and Bosch are quickly moving into IoT hardware to ensure their futures.

Blockchain consortium founded for better IoT ecosystem

Blockchain may have originated from the fluctuating cryptocurrency bitcoin, but established banks, tech companies and manufacturers are now realising its potential applications.

According to VentureBeat, a consortium of organisations including Cisco, Bosch, Foxconn, Gemalto and Bank of New York Mellon will look to develop a shared blockchain protocol within IoT.

With blockchain behind it, IoT could potentially be made much more secure, due to its cryptographic qualities and recording of transactions in the space of just a few milliseconds.

It will also help IoT networks to better identify each other during interactions in huge numbers, thereby making them more efficient.

Speaking of its potential, Gemalto said: “Securing identity for physical property and packaging is going to be a big business opportunity … High-value parts of logistics supply chains and regulated industries like energy, pharmaceuticals and cold chain could all see a blockchain component over the next decade.”

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Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic