May 16, 2017

Smart infrastructure's cyber vulnerabilities

Ted Warren / AP

The WannaCry ransomware attack locked down computers and phone systems around the world. While that wreaked havoc, it's nothing compared to what we'll see when just about every major piece of our infrastructure is connected to the internet — from self-driving cars that rely on sensors that talk to each other to smart stop lights, railroads and bridges that wirelessly monitor traffic, speeds and structural problems.

"Wait until this happens to your car, or your refrigerator, or airplane avionics, or when your internet-enabled lock has locked you out," Bruce Schneier, chief technology officer at IBM Resilient, told the Christian Science Monitor.

Why it matters: Modernized power grids and connected cities are coming soon thanks to fast-evolving technology that is detailed in a report out this morning from While those Internet-of-Things capabilities are efficient and convenient, they also create incredible infinite network entry points for hackers.

We asked Chris Hopfensperger, the group's executive director, how to prepare for those vulnerabilities.

"This is a teachable moment for the lesson that computer and device security are vitally important on a global scale, and it should underscore a range of well-known security best practices," he said.

Those best practices, according to Hopfensperger:

  • For companies, that means ensuring security by design and using risk-appropriate protections.
  • For policymakers, it means ensuring that companies have the flexibility to develop new security technologies that address emerging threats without the constraints of technology mandates.
  • For users, everyone should start with using licensed and legal software, updating devices regularly, and being informed and engaged about security threats.
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