Hitachi unveils new entity Vantara, launches first commercial Lumada IoT platform offering

Hitachi has launched a new business entity named ‘Hitachi Vantara’ to leverage the broad portfolio of innovation, development and experience from across Hitachi Group companies to deliver data-driven solutions for commercial and industrial enterprises.

Hitachi Vantara will bring together the operations of Hitachi Data Systems, Hitachi Insight Group, and Pentaho into a single integrated business as Hitachi Vantara, which will capitalise on Hitachi’s social innovation capability in both operational technologies and information technologies.

Hitachi Vantara will help customers attain tangible outcomes that positively drive business forward by bring new data-driven solutions and services to market, the company says. It will continue to develop the trusted data management and analytics technologies, along with the company’s renowned data infrastructure, storage and compute solutions, and Pentaho software.

It will also drive the development of strategic software and services solutions, which will include Hitachi Smart Data Center software and services, Lumada, Hitachi’s IoT platform – now available as a standalone, commercial software offering – and Hitachi co-creation services.

Moving further, Hitachi and Hitachi Vantara have jointly introduced the company’s first commercial Lumada IoT platform offering. It is fully updated with a sophisticated architecture that allows it to run both on-premises or in the cloud and to support industrial IoT deployments both at the edge and in the core. The platform is basically designed to help customers quickly and easily gain insights, predictions and recommendations from their data, and can be easily adapted to support mid-to-large-scale environments.

Moreover, its integrated advanced analytics have also been enhanced with AI functionality at scale. This ability makes the platform highly intelligent and flexible that accelerates quality outcomes for enterprise and industrial customers, such as increased operational efficiencies and cost savings, enhanced operational safety and reliability, improved asset utilisation, performance management and product quality, and the creation of new business models.

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How connected cars introduce new cybersecurity challenges

(c)iStock.com/beebright

When it comes to the cybersecurity of new vehicles on the road, several converging trends should give us pause.

Though the automotive industry is working to meet the inherent cybersecurity challenges of “connected cars,” policymakers and consumers should also be aware of them because resolving them and gaining consumer acceptance is crucial to the commercial success of this automotive sector.

What are these trends and their implications?

First, the electrification of transportation means that most vehicles’ functions are increasingly electronically controlled and executed. Functions formerly actuated by hydraulics or mechanical means are increasingly governed by electronics, and those electronics are networked, as are the vehicle’s information and entertainment functions.

Second, each vehicle’s own network is increasingly dependent on the so-called cloud for information and software updates. In terms of network cybersecurity, the cloud itself is a network of networks. Functionally, the cloud represents the Internet of Things (IoT), which ostensibly will connect all devices.

Third, as collision mitigation software and inter-vehicular communication strategies mature, connected cars may increasingly behave as a single node in a network of vehicles.

Perhaps you see where I’m heading by identifying these trends.

Clearly, deploying cybersecurity for a vehicle that is functionally a single node in a network of vehicles is a complex challenge, especially when that network is connected to the cloud and a network of yet more devices and more networks. Thus, a multi-faceted cybersecurity challenge is upon us.

Hackers penetrate a connected car

The notion that hackers located anywhere can disrupt a specific connected vehicle’s functions and potentially cause bodily harm to the driver, his or her passengers and the people and vehicles around them is no longer an abstract one.

In fact, USA Today reported on July 17 that “for the second time, Chinese security researchers were able to hack a Tesla Model X, turning on the brakes remotely and getting the doors and trunk to open and close while blinking the lights in time to music streamed from the car’s radio …” Apparently, the security researchers sent malicious software via the vehicle’s web browser, enabling them to control the car’s brakes, doors, trunk and lights over both Wi-Fi and cellular connections.

“The second time”? Yes, in late 2016, according to Forbes, hackers had spoofed a Tesla’s ability to discern obstacles, making a Model S’s autopilot perceive that real objects in its path had vanished and that fake objects had appeared. And they managed to turn off the car mid-drive.

Tesla is no different from any other connected vehicle, but hackers apparently chose the headline-making brand to underscore their point: connected, electrified vehicles are vulnerable. And, therefore, passengers in those vehicles and any other vehicles near them are vulnerable as well. I hesitate to mention it, but the recent use of motor vehicles by terrorists to kill and injure innocent civilians adds to the concerns over cybersecurity for connected, and in particular autonomous, vehicles.  

Taking responsibility for cybersecurity

While I believe various measures can make connected cars cyber-safe, who should take responsibility for doing so? The situation is complicated. The responsibility for making them cyber-safe goes well beyond the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) to include hosts of the cloud, third-party service providers, and aggregators of software code, to name just a few. The days of OnStar – General Motors’ proprietary, subscriber-based system for turn-by-turn directions and remote diagnostics – may be over.

In fact, coordinating a cybersecurity strategy and implementing needed steps among potentially responsible parties may well prove to be the most difficult challenge to meet. Because currently known cybersecurity measures, if properly implemented, may well reduce the risk to an acceptable level. It’s just that connected cars require more parties to coordinate and cooperate to make them feasible and safe.

Though I do not claim to have all the answers to these trends and challenges, a few obvious cybersecurity measures suggest themselves.

Applying known cyber measures

If you draw a bubble around an individual vehicle, certainly OEMs can apply cyber-hardening measures to protect the vehicle’s web browser, its internal network and the electrified systems in that vehicle to make it resistant to hacking.

Engineering situational awareness into a vehicle and its systems could mean, in a crude example, that it would be impossible to put the vehicle in park when it is going 60 miles per hour. Certain vehicular actions or responses could be engineered to be practically impossible under certain situations and conditions. Hard and fast rules of logic could be engineered into a vehicle’s systems to avoid obvious missteps or potentially harmful maneuvers.

But connected cars do not exist in a bubble and the whole point is to enable them to receive software updates or even commands from the cloud or in response to the proximity of other vehicles. So there arises a need to authenticate the validity of any updates or commands issued from the cloud or other sources, such as sensors in streets or highways.

Another challenge is that the cloud may communicate with vehicles using various protocols, with near-real-time speeds used for the most highly prioritized functions, such as steering and braking. Less important updates or commands could be given lower priority. But the party or parties responsible for sending commands, updates, or signals would have to ensure that those commands are uncorrupted. So it’s possible that blockchain technology or something akin to it might be employed to guarantee the integrity of such commands.

Finally, the common cybersecurity strategy of defense-in-depth, a layered approach, is likely to find traction in the connected car environment. In information technology, such an approach slows an attack, detects the problem and isolates it from doing harm through a variety of independent controls, systems or processes.

Clearly, connected cars offer advancements in safety, efficiency and convenience, but these benefits come with risk. Managing that risk in large, fast-moving, potentially dangerous vehicles in a way that consumers can (to a degree) understand and trust remains a significant challenge for industry. 

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Analysing the five major aspects of poor Internet of Things security

The security market for the Internet of Things (IoT) will reach $ 37 billion by 2021, according to the analysts at MarketsandMarkets.com. Because there is growing demand for cyber security, there is a lot of money spent to ensure it.

At the start of 2017, experts predicted that gaping holes in IoT would lead to the destruction of critical infrastructure, the growth of competitive intelligence, and the theft of intellectual property. It was also predicted that an increase in DDoS attacks would paralyze the Dyn DNS system and, with it, many important web domains.

With that in mind, it’s worth looking at five major aspects of the lamentable state of IoT security, stemming from explosive growth, scale, vulnerability, capacity, and availability of devices.

The first aspect

Gartner says 8.4 billion connected ‘things’ will be in use in 2017. Today, at least six million new IoT devices appear on the network every day, which means the constant appearance of new vulnerabilities. For example, last year at DefCon, researchers found 47 new vulnerabilities in 23 IoT devices by 21 manufacturers.

Given that one device usually has several holes, the situation is deplorable. The vulnerability of IoT devices is caused by several factors: the lack of sufficient experience by manufacturers to ensure reliable protection of their products, modest computing and disk capacities that limit the range of available security mechanisms, complicated software update procedures, and the lack of user attention to threats caused by IoT devices.

The second aspect

IoT devices are a very attractive, powerful, and ubiquitous environment for intruders. The growing number of easily compromised consumer devices increases the probability, frequency, and severity of attacks including attacks on corporate data, businesses, equipment, employees, and consumers. For an attacker, it’s easy to get control over entire networks, starting with the compromise of one of the many vulnerable consumer IoT devices.

A vivid example is the popular NEST thermostat. In 2015, TrapX Security engineers connected to the mini-USB port of the thermostat and conducted a man in the middle (MITM) attack, during which a special application scrambled the ARP address of the network gateway. Hackers use MITM attacks to gain control over systems on one or both ends of the communications channel, including corporate networks.

This hole is just one of many examples of how seemingly innocent IoT devices can cause the compromise of entire networks and organisations, thefts, and possibly even disruptions of current processes. By gaining control over the IoT network at home or in the organisation, hackers can not only steal data but endanger life, health, and property.

The third aspect

IoT is the gateway to huge amounts of personal user information that helps hackers in the selection of targets and vectors of attacks. It becomes easier for them to choose passwords used in key companies, government, military, political, and public organisations.

User data is collected on the Internet of Things to help companies conduct targeted marketing by creating a digital representation of all user preferences and features. Attackers steal and combine data from different sources to reveal the interests and habits of people so that they can pick up passwords and answers to secret questions. In some cases, people use the same passwords for corporate networks.

The fourth aspect

Increasing the availability of SCADA and the management of industrial systems through IoT makes possible widespread devastating attacks. When industrial control systems based on IoT are connected to the Internet, it becomes challenging to protect against attacks on the national infrastructure – utilities, power systems, and so on.

As an example of such a scenario, one can recall the recent attack on European energy facilities, which resulted in tens of thousands of people without electricity. In this case, the object of the attack was the control system of this critical infrastructure, which led to its failure.

The fifth aspect

The widespread and – for the most part – open IoT allows hackers to conduct simultaneous attacks on any agency, service or enterprise, as shown in the movie Die Hard 4. Hackers can create and use large botnets that simultaneously jam various infrastructures with DDoS attacks. Imagine what would happen if 10%-15% of the devices in a country are used for a DDoS attack against one of the world’s financial centres?

According to the previously mentioned Gartner forecast, by 2020 there will be 20.8 billion IoT devices. To protect this equipment, companies must first assess the risks, implement the security procedures developed for each device, and train staff. DS/IPS security technologies should also guard the potential for the malicious behaviour of IoT devices. When a company uses consumer devices like the same NEST thermostat, it must also introduce second generation firewalls that allow the device to connect only to certain IP addresses. The emergence of vulnerable devices in homes is an important reason for educating employees about these risks.

You can protect yourself with additional authentication – for example, two-factor authentication. Companies themselves must adapt to changing password requirements. This requires professionals who are aware of the risks of the new technology, and the constant updating of the software and hardware infrastructure (without introducing new risks).

It is difficult to secure SCADA and industrial legacy control systems because such systems tend to be closed to the basis mechanisms for ensuring cyber security. At a minimum, companies must isolate them in their networks and tightly monitor and regulate access to them. Industrial control systems have high availability requirements. This means that non-critical updates are not allowed. In an ideal world, such systems must be isolated from the Internet.

Conclusion

IoT protection from DDoS attacks includes ensuring the security of devices. This approach is consistent with the standard security model, implying zero confidence in minimum privileges. Organisations can be protected from hackers using IoT botnets, hardening security in networks containing IoT devices. But for this, it is necessary to carefully test the available tools and see how effectively they protect. With the help of new technologies, it can be possible to detect intruders.

What to do from here? Maintaining security of the Internet of Things is not without difficulties, but it is not hopeless either. However, it is worth taking the following steps:

  • Regulators should fine companies that sell equipment with security problems until they recall and make corrections to their products
  • Legislators must introduce laws requiring periodic restoration of IoT software to its original state. This will periodically get rid of the malware used to penetrate the network
  • Finally, new hardware should use a limited range of IPv6 addresses, so for those who are under attack by botnets, it is easier to force their provider to reject all packets originating from IoT devices.

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Itron acquires Silver Spring Networks in “intelligent strategic move”

Itron, an energy and water resource management provider, has announced the acquisition of Silver Spring Networks (SSN) for approximately $ 830 million (£615.6m).

Silver Spring Networks is a San Jose, California-based provider of IoT connectivity platforms and solutions to utilities and cities. With its widespread global network in the smart utility and smart city sectors, the company has generated more than 20% of its revenues via its primarily recurring managed services and SaaS solutions, which is Itron’s area of strategic focus. The company has delivered more than 26.7 million network-enabled devices across five continents till date.

With the acquisition, Itron expects approximately $ 50 million in cost synergies on an annual basis to be substantially realised within three years of completing the transaction by optimising combined operations and expenses.

Pablo Tomasi, senior research analyst, smart cities and IoT at IHS Markit, said: “To further grow, Itron needs to continue improving on the trend set by SSN of more than 20% of its revenues generated through SaaS solutions and managed services. Expanding this revenue stream is crucial as this model fits well with the smart city market as it tailors around cities’ needs and budgets.

“This is also in line with the major IoT trend of transition from product-based solutions to service-based solutions. Such a business model eases the pain point of high expenses, and generates recurrent revenues which can be expanded with further services.”

Thomas Frashier, research analyst, smart utilities infrastructure at IHS Markit, said: “This is an intelligent strategic move for Itron. While reliability remains important, metering hardware has become increasingly commoditised. Future competitive advantage for meter OEMs will be gained through competency in communications networking and value-added services at the meter and in the distribution grid – and beyond, in the case of smart cities.”

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DHL and Huawei team up for inbound to manufacturing logistics IoT solution

DHL Supply Chain and Huawei Technologies, have launched a narrowband Internet of Things (NB-IoT) application in partnership at an automotive site in Liuzhou focused on manufacturing and logistics.

The NB-IoT is designed to facilitate and streamline yard management for inbound-to-manufacturing logistics, leading to significant improvements in inbound processing time at the site. The execution of this IoT solution was done at a minimum by leveraging the existing infrastructure and limited investments. The proof of concept will continue to run till September 2017 end, with 100 DHL drivers at a section with 30 docks.

Usually, logistics services involving inbound-to-manufacturing processes can witness time-consuming inefficiencies especially at sites that have high turnover of supply deliveries, which are important to the manufacturing process and major sites with remarkable turnover of trucks. There may be a delay when a shipment needs to be handled at a different dock at the manufacturing site, for instance; and this is when the technology comes to the rescue, the companies claim. The solution incorporates NB-IoT chipsets – which are embedded with vehicle detectors – that use common cellular telecommunications bands like the LTE, which allows for a simple and economical implementation.

Elsewhere, the latest research from Counterpoint’s Market Pulse for July 2017 shows Huawei to have surpassed Apple in global smartphone sales consistently for June and July.

Counterpoint’s associate director, Tarun Pathak, said: “The growth of Chinese brands is an important trend which no player in the mobile ecosystem can ignore. Chinese brands with their dominant position in key markets such as China, Europe, Asia and Latin America have restricted the growth prospects for leading global brands such as Samsung and Apple.

“Chinese brands are growing swiftly thanks not only to smartphone design, manufacturing capability and rich feature sets, but also by outsmarting and outspending rivals in sales channels, go-to-market and marketing promotion strategies.”

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