Why CES is the largest selection of insecure devices in the world

Alan Grau, president and co-founder, Icon Labs

The annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES2016) in Las Vegas has wrapped up. With 160,000 attendees, 3,800 exhibitors and almost 2.5 million square feet of exhibit space, it is the largest electronics show in the world.

The array of new products and technologies has been featured on virtually every media outlet from Good Morning America to Cona, says Alan Grau of Icon Labs.
There is something for every interest on display, from self-driving cars and drones, to video games, virtual reality, and smart appliances. I saw products for exercise, infant care, elder care, food preparation and smart trash cans and toilets. It is really exciting to see the extremes of modern day technology.

However, two important themes caught my attention.

image008First, everything is being connected. And by everything I really mean everything, whether it really needs it or not. Each of the products I mentioned provides connectivity, most of them using some type of wireless interface.

Second, everything is insecure. In this case, when I say everything, I again mean everything. It is a hacker’s delight.

Some companies have started to build security into their products, and in the more security and safety critical areas, progress is being made. Despite this, very few vendors have made security a priority. What I find truly worrisome is that the majority of the new products have not adequately addressed even the most basic security requirements. From drones to vehicles to smart home appliances, very few products have implemented strong security. Many of these developers are in such a rush to get their products to market – and to connect them to the cloud or smartphones – that they simply ignore the need for security.image009

As a techie I enjoy CES. It’s fun for me to check out all the new gadgets and devices. I get excited about self-driving cars and intelligent baby monitors that can reduce the number of deaths due to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

But as a security professional, I have very mixed feelings. Many of the silicon vendors have begun to recognize this challenge and are now starting to add hardware security modules to their platforms. These are the security building blocks that can be used to create new devices with much higher layers of security. But the overwhelming number of devices that have not yet adopted these solutions is, well, the reason I consider CES to be the largest collection of insecure devices in the world.

The author is Alan Grau, the president and co-founder of Icon Labs, a provider of security solutions for embedded devices.

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