Secure Internet Transmission – Cracks are Starting to Form

Just last week, Google researchers announced that they have managed to render one of the internet security standards obsolete. While this is not unexpected, the fact that the first encryption scheme is breakable, sends a clear signal that researchers need to ensure continuing development.  Google reported on February 23rd that the encryption method known as SHA-1 was breached. This means that a document or file encrypted with SHA-1 can no longer 100% be trusted to be authentic. SHA, or Secure Hash Algorithm, is a method developed by the United States Institute of Standards and Technology for encrypting a file before sending. The file can be reliably known to have no alterations when being received. The standard was developed in 1993, and has since seen multiple revisions. Currently, a variant on SHA-2 is being used, known as SHA-256.

Since all e-commerce depnds on the ability for party A to “trust” the transmission sent by or to party B, secure encryption is an absolute must. While the hash collision is news, SHA-1 has been surpassed for several years by newer encryption algorithms. Most e-commerce sites use more secure methods such as SHA-256. The interesting thing about this discovery is that we are on the road to even SHA-256 being compromised in the future.

Posted in Business, Security

The Internet of Things and Security

I’ve written before on the issues surrounding the “Internet of things” and security. With more devices connected to the world, more potential attack vectors surface.

I read recently that connected vehicles now have a potential issue. The mobile app used to connect to a vehicle may not be secure. When one sells a car with a connected app, the information stored on that vehicle does not get removed automatically. In this story, an IBM researcher realized this, when he noticed that he still had access to a car he sold. The current owner would have no idea he still had this access. Also, there was no method for the current owner to remove the access without dealer intervention.

I also have a car with a connected app. My 2016 Malibu has the OnStar application loaded on my mobile device. I recently used it to help locate it in a city parking garage, when I wasn’t sure which entrance I’d used.

In this case, the app requires me to register my phone and log in. However, I’m not certain the app would stop working were I to sell the vehicle. The article and resulting information bring up a bigger issue: Now that our devices are becoming more connected, how vulnerable are we? My house has two wireless routers, an Internet connected DVR and television, a home security system, and a video surveillance system. All of these devices were exposed just this past October when several thousands (millions?) of these devices were hijacked and took town the servers running traffic on the Internet. While convenient, there needs to be some work done to ensure security is ensured.

 

 

Posted in Security

2017 – The Tipping Point for Electric Vehicles?

While crawling through traffic with several thousand of my closest friends this morning, I was struck by the number of hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and pure electric vehicles I was sharing the road with.  I recently bought my first hybrid, a  2016 Malibu, to replace my aging 2000 Jetta TDI.  My daily commute consists of streets combined with slow-and-go traffic through Los Angeles. As such, it is well-suited to an electric, hybrid, or plug-in hybrid. I’ve wanted to purchase a hybrid or electric for several years. However, my choices were limited to the Prius or some mild-hybrid options.  If I bought electric, I’d either need to cram into a sub-compact Leaf or the uber-expensive Tesla.  Neither choice was worth my money.

Enter late 2016: my 16-year-old Jetta with 260,000 miles finally needed major repairs.  Yes, I could have spent the few thousand to repair it but was not interested. The car was small, noisy, and really only seated two people. Also, driving a manual in Los Angeles is just more work than it is worth. I sold it and went for the Malibu, which is based on the Volt and will also service the 2017 Cadillac CT6 Plug-in.   For reference, the Malibu contains a 1.8 liter engine mated to an electric engine for a combined 180 HP and 270 lb-ft of torque. The gas-powered Malibu gets only 160 hp by comparison.

During my search, I noticed the number of plug-in hybrids, hybrids, and electric models has skyrocketed in the United States.  Based on tax incentives and a desire to increase overall economy, both consumers and auto-makers are moving away from internal combustion only engines towards hybrid and electric only powerplants. I believe that this year is going to be known as the “tipping point” for electric and hybrid vehicles.  (The term refers to a term from author Malcom Gladwell uses to describe “that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire.“)  This past summer, MIT published an article stating that “Roughly 90 percent of the personal vehicles on the road daily could be replaced by a low-cost electric vehicle available on the market today, even if the cars can only charge overnight,”  (https://phys.org/news/2016-08-electric-vehicles-drivers-percent-road.html#jCp)

While true, the average consumer still felt uncomfortable with pure electric vehicles. I have heard first hand about those driving a Nissan Leaf or the Chevy Spark EV and getting close to empty before returning home. 2017 is the first year, we can choose between more than one vehicle with decent electric range. Chevrolet released the Bolt to much fanfare. That car has a 250-mile range, which is considered optimal for many commuters and drivers.

 

Compare that to the original mass-produced electric, the GM EV1. That car only was able to manage about 100 miles before charge depletion and was only a two-seater. 

In 2017, we now have over a dozen electric models, ranging from the Smart for Two all the way to the aforementioned Tesla Model S.  Add to these a list of almost 20 plug-in electric vehicles now on sale. These cars have enough battery capacity to run for over ten miles on electric only but have an on-board range extending gas engine to enhance and recharge the electric. Yet, each of these can be plugged in to charge from solar or utility company grid electric.  One can even shell out over $1,000,000 for a McLaren P1 supercar, which has a 5 Kwh battery that can be plugged in.

The only question is whether we are looking at true adoption or government incentives.  Considering many people – myself included – prefer to drive larger SUVs, the true takeover of electric vehicles may take awhile .

Hopefully, we will look back at 2017 and see that electric and plug-in electric vehicles are becoming the norm rather than the exception.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Business