Saturday, September 10, 2011

Hacking Targets Multiply

Wall Street Journal (09/09/11) Jennifer Valentino-DeVries 

U.S. government officials and security researchers warn that cyberattacks are a growing threat for all types of devices as they become linked to the Internet or cell phone networks. "They aren't just in automotive systems but in security systems, industrial control systems, medical devices," says iSec Partners' Don Bailey. He and iSec colleague Mathew Solnik recently demonstrated that they could unlock and start a car by sending text messages to the vehicle's alarm system, and the implication is that this same method could be used to interfere with businesses or critical services. The researchers point out that devices connected to a cellular network have several vulnerabilities, including chips that may not be able to manage complex security measures, and an inability to authenticate the network they receive messages from. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is working with technology manufacturers and users to understand the dangers, and a DHS official notes that protecting the devices is especially challenging because they cannot easily be patched on a routine basis. Bailey says that better microcontrollers could mitigate some hacking threats, while devices also should be required to authenticate the sources of messages and their networks.