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BLOG: The security threat Stephen King warned us about?

Taylor Armerding | Dec. 13, 2011
Remember the film "Maximum Overdrive," where machines took over and went on a murderous rampage? With cars and appliances ever more computerized, such a security threat seems a little less farfetched as we head into 2012.

Indeed, there are television ads showing mom turning the lights on and off in her house from her smart phone while she sits on an airplane waiting to leave the gate.

"You can turn on your car, you can lock or unlock it with your mobile device. That convergence comes with possible consequences," Rouse says.

"You could imagine hackers getting control of a number of vehicles and then selling that list to criminals. They can say where the vehicles are, what their license plates are, and they could unlock them all at the same time."

Rouse says the best thing consumers have going for them is that hackers tend to be lazy. "Most of them don't have the attention span to do something like that."

The primary danger, experts agree, is not to the car or the home itself but to the personal data that lies behind it -- things like passwords, credit card numbers and other information that can then be easily monetized.

When it comes to office buildings, Brandon Williams, global CTO of Marketing at RSA, The Security Division of EMC, says most companies do a good job of identifying physical assets to be secured.

"We even build security enclaves in the physical world like we might design in an electronic world. Data centers tend to be like vaults, networking closets are like locked file cabinets, and Wi-Fi is like a chain-link fence," he says.

But, he says, the systems that control the locks may not be so secure. "Are they vaulted?" he asks, "or sitting in a locked closet somewhere in an area of the network that might be accessible remotely?"

Those systems should be in a vault as well, he says.

Ghosh says the responsibility for security of home and office systems "falls squarely on the shoulders of the device manufacturers. As these manufacturers network-enable these devices, they must also engineer them for resiliency against cyber attack.

But Rouse says that may be a long time coming.

Home, auto and office systems that can be controlled remotely, "are very sexy," he says. They are sold by charm. Security is an afterthought."


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