With the wave of cheap connected devices arriving on the scene, a whole new world of security threats could be looming. While most of us won’t be trading securities and banking on devices like our new web enabled TV’s, open firmware holes can still leave a world of possibilities open to the creative criminal mind.
Researchers at Mocana, a security technology company in San Francisco, recently discovered they could hack into a best-selling Internet-ready HDTV model with unsettling ease.
They found a hole in the software that helps display Web sites on the TV and leveraged that flaw to control information being sent to the television. They could put up a fake screen for a site like Amazon.com and then request credit card billing details for a purchase. They could also monitor data being sent from the TV to sites. (New York Times)
Sound far fetched? Imagine rogue sites popping up claiming to offer free streams of new release movies. The movie probably won’t actually stream, but by the time the user initiates a download the device could be compromised. This sort of thing already happens to the uninformed PC user. Manufacturers that are not accustomed to hardening devices will need to learn quickly. Not doing so could bring a mountain of warranty claims for malfunctioning units infected with exploits.
Buying a new web enabled TV or set top box? Locking down access to a few trusted URL’s on your router for that specific unit might make lots of sense. Until manufacturers catch up with potential exploits, its will better to limit your surfing to the PC. Portable devices are no less vulnerable. Common sense dictates that you should not place any information you would see a need to secure on them.
According to Ramussen, that vast majority of Americans want the feds’ collective hands kept off the Internet. That’s a largest number than I’ve seen in agreement on any single issue in years.
The current administration’s goals are very different. In fact, the FCC has made it clear that it feels it can assume authority simply because it is not specifically prohibited from doing so. Without specific laws prohibiting it from acting on it’s goals, regulation will become reality. Now would be a good time to write to your representatives. You can reach your senators here and your house rep here.
It’s no secret that AT&T’s under investment in infrastructure has become a major liability for the company that now wears the once proud technology leader’s logo. The iPhone has rewarded the company with steady wireless growth, enough to cover for its land based Uverse disaster. While is has been beefing up it’s wireless infrastructure recently, it has not kept pace with demand created by growth created by internet capable handsets. This could be a real chill on revenue growth as AT&T loses it’s iPhone exclusive. Needing a quick fix, the company is beefing up its WiFi network in the most congested locations.
“We’re excited to start the next phase of our hotzone program with additional Wi-Fi coverage areas in New York City and, soon, in San Francisco,” said Angie Wiskocil, senior vice president, AT&T Wi-Fi Services. “AT&T Wi-Fi will be available across a wider area for Manhattan residents, visitors and New Year’s Eve revelers during the busy holiday season and beyond. Plus, San Francisco residents are expected to soon be able to enjoy a Wi-Fi hotzone in the Embarcadero Center area as they shop, dine and work.” (ATT.com Press Release)
AT&T may have tripped over a broader wireless solution without trying. The company has hap hazzardly established a WiFi presence that nearly rivals some carriers 3G coverage. This gives the smart phone user access to decent bandwidth in select locations without burning precious monthly plan bits. Fixed line customers stuck with a slow connection at home may be enticed to stay with free access to a robust WiFi network when out and about. AT&T skates by big investments by deploying commodity, off the shelf hardware that does not need expensive tower leases and permits that can use existing infrastructure for back haul. Customers can access the network with commodity devices and use it as they please.
Switching to a broader view, I think that this calls into question how we’re managing spectrum. Using a tiny sliver of shared spectrum, AT&T is providing service to the masses quickly and cheaply. ANYONE can use that spectrum quickly and easily by plugging in an approved device. The FCC pre-certifies the devices we use and polices any bad behavior. Thanks to the chaos of an open market, new bandwidth goes on online in the blink of any eye.
Meanwhile back in Washington, carrier lobbyists are beating the drum for more exclusive spectrum to enable the chosen few to keep consumers on their exclusive plantations. I think it’s for a reboot. No more exclusive licenses to spectrum. We’ve tried the other way and it’s kept American technology behind the curve and forced us to pay the highest prices in the developed world for service. I’m not suggesting that we put the existing carriers out of business, I’m only suggesting that we stop protecting them from competition. Yes, I know the rest of the world is still doing it the old way. Staying with that model has turned us into lagging followers. It’s time to lead.
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski wants us all to think that he’s looking out for us. He must also think we’re stupid. Anti trust statutes clearly state that a monopoly may not be used to gain an advantage in additional markets. There’s no mention of this in any of the government whitewash that is concealing the fact that NBC Comcast merger isn’t even worthy of consideration in the current marketplaces Comcast and NBC play in. Never the less, Genachowski is putting on a dog and pony show to make his blessing on the deal look more legitimate to the unwashed masses in flyover country.
The conditions laid out Thursday by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski
are intended to guarantee that satellite providers and other rival
television services can still carry marquee NBC programming and that new
Internet video distributors can get the content they need to grow and
Comcast’s takeover of NBC Universal
could have profound consequences for the nascent market for Internet
video — a market that could eat into Comcast’s core cable TV business if
enough consumers drop their cable subscriptions in favor of low-cost
Genachowski wants to ensure that Comcast won’t be
able to use its control over NBC’s vast media empire to withhold content
from emerging online competitors such as Netflix Inc., Amazon.com Inc.
and Apple Inc. — locking consumers into costly monthly cable bills to
get access to a wide range of popular programming. (Yahoo)
Anyone who thinks that it will be possible to keep Comcast from using it’s control over NBC to gain unfair advantage clearly doesn’t understand business. Business all out war, dirty tricks and all. This is doubly true in the entertainment and cable industry. Gentlemen’s agreements are never honored. And monopolists always seek out government and regulating bodies to gain advantage and maintain a monopoly.
The only condition that should be given to Comcast / NBC are as follows: Either divest from Internet Access and broadcast properties or open a dozen or so channels on the coax to be leased to competitive access providers at a fair wholesale rate. Anything less will create an advantage the regulators will never be able to control. It’s something akin to allowing Exxon to own half of the freeways along with half of the gasoline business and then allowing it to buy GM.
I’m not singling out Comcast. You can’t have sole rights to the pipe, content and value added services without lots of help from people in high places. It’s not a natural monopoly and could never happen without government sanction. It’s time for government to return to it’s chartered role of insuring a level playing field for an unlimited number of businesses to compete instead of sanctioning oligarchies.
One annoying feature of the free marketplace for top level domains is how many of the best end up in the hands of speculators who buy them to hold for future resale and “park” them with a link farm operator. When NBC Universal took over scifi.com and turned it into a dumbed down online presence for its equally dumbed down version the Scifi channel, there was one less serious place on the net for scifi fans.
Bucking the trend, one domain speculator decided to invest invest in a domain and actually do something with it. After putting up $175K to buy sciencefiction.com, Patrick Ruddell is actually publishing there.
The domain name had been held back by a finance company called Domain Capital due to a defaulted loan, and Ruddell contacted two sci-fi geek friends to turn it into a business.
Fast forward to today, and ScienceFiction.com has launched as a way for fans to access information about all things science fiction, ranging from movies, TV shows, games, books, comic books and technology. (Tech Crunch)
Kudos and congratulations to Patrick and company. May the new sciencfiction.com live long and prosper.