Cybersecurity in IoT: Achieving Digital Security in an Age of Surveillance


In the 2006 science fiction thriller Déjá Vu, Denzel Washington plays a government agent who uses novel government technology to fold time and space back onto itself so that he can retroactively prevent a terrorist attack. It’s a creative interpretation of the concept of déjà vu, and, of course, Washington’s character uses this technology only for good. While the idea of literally bending time and space to repeat the past is relegated to science fiction, the film raises important questions about the ethics and prevalence of government surveillance, which are particularly prescient for our modern times.

As part of the natural evolution of technology, the internet of things (IoT) has established itself as one of the most transformative innovations of our time. IoT is a simple process of connecting existing devices to the internet so that they can send and receive data that allows them to act independently. Dubbed “smart” devices, they are becoming incredibly popular. We are connecting billions of IoT devices to the internet, and Gartner predicts that we will connect more than 20 billion IoT devices by 2020. This includes everything from smart home systems to driverless cars. The full range of the ordinary to the extraordinary is represented by the IoT.

Unfortunately, all of these connected devices and the troves of data that they transmit through the internet are fodder for government surveillance. As Shay Hershkovitz eloquently wrote in Wired, “There is little doubt that the web is the greatest gift that any intelligence agency could have ever asked for.” The internet is a place where we willingly provide our personal data to companies and governments in exchange for the pale privilege of surfing the web.

This is especially true with IoT. All of our connected devices continuously broadcast our information, and the collection can be used in unimaginable ways. Former director of national intelligence James Clapper said during congressional testimony that “In the future, intelligence services might use the [internet of things] for identification, surveillance, monitoring, location tracking, and targeting for recruitment or to gain access to networks or users credentials.

Even for people with nothing to hide, this is a concerning statement. With all the data shared through IoT, it’s almost like surveillance projects do have the ability to bend time and space to repeat the past.

Fortunately, we are making progress here with the development of blockchain technology, the decentralized ledger system that’s enabling and securing the most valuable cryptocurrencies in the world, and is also offering security solutions for IoT that may allow the practice to thrive while still preserving privacy and security.

The blockchain decentralizes the network.

One of the obvious but unique aspects of IoT is that all of its devices broadcast their information through the internet. Even two devices sitting directly next to one another will communicate across millions of miles of internet infrastructure. Since these devices broadcast through cloud services housed in centralized servers, there are evident and vulnerable points of attack or surveillance.

The blockchain runs a decentralized ledger system, which distributes information across a network of computers and uses a consensus algorithm to ensure parity. IBMembraces this approach in its IoT for business products, noting that the blockchain “enables your business partners to access and supply IoT data without the need for a central authority or management.”

Moreover, according to Deloitte, IBM and Samsung have put together a proof of concept using the Ethereum blockchain to improve the technical capabilities of IoT and to enhance its security. Their product has secured financing from Verizon Ventures, the investment division of Verizon Communications, which indicates that the security enhancements produced by decentralization are offering promising results.

The blockchain enables tokenized information.

The blockchain was initially conceived by bitcoin developers to facilitate p2p transactions without the use of an intermediary like a bank. It’s been pretty successful so far, and this same concept can be applied to IoT. The creation of unique IoT related tokens can allow individuals to participate in the ecosystem while still protecting their most vulnerable information.

In many ways, tokenized information is the perfect balance between accessibility and privacy. After all, the IoT becomes a lot less compelling if it can’t adapt to your use-cases. In this case, the token acts as a substitute for a person’s actual information. Therefore, IoT can achieve a personal connection without ever revealing any personal information. It’s an ironic scenario, but it’s one that makes all the difference in preserving privacy.

The blockchain is unchangeable.

One of the most troubling aspects of government surveillance is their ability to conceal their actions. Without whistleblowers like Edward Snowden or ironic hacks on government databases, the extent of surveillance is rarely known or understood. The blockchain offers a transparent framework that records activity and ensures that records cannot be tampered with.

The blockchain’s transparency is a hallmark of the platform, and it’s a valuable measure toward ensuring that user’s data is accurate, intact, and secure. There is no slowing IoT development, and that’s a good thing. With the blockchain, IoT can secure users’ privacy before it becomes a commodity of government surveillance programs.

Unfortunately, we know that surveillance programs rarely play the heroic role that they do in films like Déjà vu. In fact, for IoT to ignore this fact would cause some unfortunate déjà vu as it falls victim to the same privacy violations already plaguing the internet.

The post Cybersecurity in IoT: Achieving Digital Security in an Age of Surveillance appeared first on ReadWrite.


We Are Closer Than Ever to Achieving the Hyperloop – But Not the One We First Imagined

The Reality of Compromise

The Hyperloop One’s recent speed record of 308 kmh (192 mph) is an important step (however small) toward surpassing the first goal of the Hyperloop: to achieve quicker transit than other alternatives. But, while the hyperloop was initially designed to achieve 1,200 km/h (750 mph) with a chic micro-craft built for three passengers, it is developing into something quite different.

This Infographic Highlights All You Need to Know about the Hyperloop
Click to View Full Infographic

In his original outline, Musk illuminated some glaring problems at the conceptual stage of several other “high speed” rail systems — namely the high expense per mile, the cost of operation, and that other propositions were less safe than flying by two orders of magnitude.

No one thought the proposal would come so far a mere four years after Elon Musk released his initial plans for Hyperloop system. But with tubes 3.3 meters (11 feet) in diameter, the craft looks more like the cargo version from Musk’s original concept. Instead of a bobsled, we’re seeing something more like an ordinary train. Additionally, the thin concrete pylons planned for minimal terrestrial footprint will be significantly larger. Since this is more on the scale of a train or highway, the disruptive potential of compact tubes would seem, alas, reneged.

The Pitch

The environmental pitch of Hyperloop was simple. Having speed, high acceleration and deceleration, and a high frequency of available stops would give the world’s population centers incentive to switch away from “traditional” modes of transportation. This would mean less greenhouse gases emitted, potentially slowing the advance of global climate change.

Image Credit: NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center
Image Credit: NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center

However, the recent Hyperloop One test shows multiple branching routes that resemble more of a linear track than a loop, which was a key factor for energy efficiency of the system. Without high-speed winds that travel in a constant direction, the main form of propulsion would seem to default to the magnetic levitation system, omitting the complex on-boarding/off-boarding feature that made Hyperloop feel not only innovative, but feasible.

But last month Musk moved back towards that feasible direction when he announced that Boring Company’s boring (if not mysterious) tunnels could create a Hyperloop vacuum-tunnel betwixt New York and Washington, D.C., with a transit time of 29 minutes. He then met with Hawthorne, Calif., Mayor Alex Vargas to explain the physics, and (presumably) the economics of implementing the Hyperloop, which on the scale of the state of California, was estimated to cost $ 7.5 billion.

It may sound cynical, but — at its core — engineering is physics with compromise. And as these compromises mount, it’s difficult to keep sight of the final goal. But as with any technological revolution, it takes a prolonged and sober engagement with the real-world drawbacks, and even failures, to predict the final outcome.

The post We Are Closer Than Ever to Achieving the Hyperloop – But Not the One We First Imagined appeared first on Futurism.


Hyperloop One Has Taken the First Step Towards Achieving Hyperspeed

The First Hurdle

In its first full system trial at the test track in Nevada, Hyperloop One has successfully created vacuum conditions that allowed it to travel at speeds of about 110 km/h (70 mph). While this does not seem dizzyingly fast, it means that the system achieved its primary function of reducing air resistance to a level similar to a plane flying at 61,000 meters (200,000 feet) — this is what will, eventually, allow it to travel at hyperspeed.

The achievement marks a successful jump over the first hurdle in a series that will lead to the Hyperloop’s implementation. The next test it will undertake is to travel 400 km/h (250 mph) on the same track, although the final goal will be to travel at speeds of up to 1,200 km/h (750 mph) in a real world setting. This break-neck speed should be easier to achieve on the intercity tracks that will be significantly longer track than the test course in Nevada, which would allow the pod to build up a little more steam.

City to City Transport

Hyperloop has significant advantages for travelers, the economy, and the environment. Eventually, it will be able to travel far faster than any method of land based transport currently available — with its closest competitor, the bullet train, only capable of speeds of 320 km/h (200 mph). Projections indicate that it will also be cheaper to build than bullet train systems. To compare, California’s bullet train will cost $ 12.7 billion to install, while Elon Musk predicts a Hyperloop will cost $ 7.5 billion.

This Infographic Highlights All You Need to Know about the Hyperloop
Click to View Full Infographic

The hyperloop will also beat out other means of transportation for convenience and value — it is designed to arrive at stops every 30 seconds. Due to this increased frequency and decreased cost, the hyperloop offers a viable alternative to road-based transport, which means that it will lower our emissions of greenhouse gases — a characteristic augmented by the installation of solar panels on the roofs of the carriages.

The increased speed is particularly good new for Dubai and Abu Dhabi — which are its two planned inaugural projects. The makers of the hyperloop have also recently released a list of U.S. locations and a shortlist of potential European cities that could have the system installed — it is rumored a hyperloop will connect the entire continent by 2021.

The post Hyperloop One Has Taken the First Step Towards Achieving Hyperspeed appeared first on Futurism.