Welcome!

Mobile IoT Authors: Elizabeth White, Pat Romanski, Yeshim Deniz, Zakia Bouachraoui, Liz McMillan

Related Topics: Mobile IoT, Containers Expo Blog, IT SOLUTIONS GUIDE

Mobile IoT: Article

Who Would You Trust?

Sun, Microsoft, or a stranger on the train?

Everyone is looking for our trust at the moment. Schemes for digitally signing applications seem to be popping up like gophers across the mobile landscape, each of them confident that we'll place our trust in their authority. Microsoft, of course, has been trying to convince us to only trust applications and drivers signed by them on our desktops. Now Symbian will be signing applications for our phones while Nokia has launched their own scheme (called "Nokia OK") to demonstrate that the application meets with their approval.

While the lack of granular security in Symbian (once an application is running it can do anything) might make certification useful, Sun reckons that network operators would like to see their approval on Java applications (which generally don't have the same security issues), while the networks themselves are already preparing their own offerings.

So what will all these certificates tell us? Are any of these parties actually willing to take some responsibility for the application when things go wrong? When your digitally signed game starts sending out spam text messages to everyone in your address book will you have someone to sue? It seems not; while all these companies are happy to lend their names to say that the applications work properly, no one appears to be happy to accept the liability when it turns out they don't. Ultimately it's the network operators who will have to deal with irate customers, and blaming them for installing software (the normal defense in desktop support) isn't going to wash. Flashing warnings on the screen just doesn't work, as the recent My Doom and Bagel worms amply demonstrate; users will click "OK" no matter how many times they are told to take care, and it's not practical to educate all mobile phone users in the intricacies of device security.

BREW provides one alternative to pointless dialogs for the user to agree with; it just won't allow users to install an application unless QUALCOMM, or its partners, has approved that application. While that might seem draconian, it will be BREW users who are laughing when the first Symbian worm strikes.

With MIDP 2.0, the latest version of Java, applications are divided into domains including "vendor," "operator," and "trusted third party" with access to different APIs being restricted by who digitally signed the application. When messages are displayed to the user they are clear and action-related, such as: "This application wants to send a text message." The user is then free to make an informed choice to allow or disallow the action. Users understand actions, and an application that misbehaves will be given short shift. This mechanism allows informed choices from the users, while protecting them, and their network, from undue interference. But even this approach is fraught with problems. How do the certificates get onto the phone? What happens if a user changes networks? When an application manages to bypass this security who will be liable (Sun, the network, or the JVM vendor)?

A mobile phone is not a desktop computer, and the security it needs isn't the same. The sooner people start to recognize that fact the better.

Someone else asked me to trust them the other day, someone I had never met and will probably never meet. I was traveling on the subway, reading some documents on my Palm, when up popped a message saying that "Pug Ugly" was trying to connect and did I want to allow them. This was, obviously, a Bluetooth connection and I simply rejected it and continued reading. It seems that Mr. Ugly was a persistent soul, and tried another few times before I switched off my Bluetooth connectivity to be able to read in peace. I had heard about this use of Bluetooth (Bluejacking, as it's known), and while some Nokia handsets have had security issues, in general I leave all my devices advertising their presence and consider such approaches no different from someone walking up to me and talking. It occurred to me that I'm something of a gold mine for anyone playing with a new Bluetooth device, because I carry at least three active devices at any time. People sharing a carriage with me must think Bluetooth is everywhere.

Glancing around the carriage, I noticed a girl surreptitiously keying a Nokia 3650 and could only assume that the identity of Mr. Ugly had been established (though to be fair, the girl was neither Mr. nor Ugly). Checking my P900 later, I discovered dozens of messages sent over a period of months including graphics (like the skeleton pictured) and sounds. I've said several times that the best way to get users comfortable with a technology is to provide a silly application for it, the sillier the better. By playing with Bluetooth, users can gain confidence with this new wireless technology, so when they want a way to connect things together it's the obvious choice. Other than mobile telephones, wireless is still a novelty to most people, making this the perfect time to have some fun with it.

More Stories By Bill Ray

Bill Ray, former editor-in-chief (and continuing distinguished contributor to) Wireless Business & Technology magazine, has been developing wireless applications for over 20 ears on just about every platform available. Heavily involved in Java since its release, he developed some of the first cryptography applications for Java and was a founder of JCP Computer Services, a company later sold to Sun Microsystems. At Swisscom he was responsible for the first Java-capable DTV set-top box, and currently holds the position of head of Enabling Software at 02, a UK network operator.

Comments (1)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


IoT & Smart Cities Stories
In his general session at 19th Cloud Expo, Manish Dixit, VP of Product and Engineering at Dice, discussed how Dice leverages data insights and tools to help both tech professionals and recruiters better understand how skills relate to each other and which skills are in high demand using interactive visualizations and salary indicator tools to maximize earning potential. Manish Dixit is VP of Product and Engineering at Dice. As the leader of the Product, Engineering and Data Sciences team at D...
Dynatrace is an application performance management software company with products for the information technology departments and digital business owners of medium and large businesses. Building the Future of Monitoring with Artificial Intelligence. Today we can collect lots and lots of performance data. We build beautiful dashboards and even have fancy query languages to access and transform the data. Still performance data is a secret language only a couple of people understand. The more busine...
Bill Schmarzo, author of "Big Data: Understanding How Data Powers Big Business" and "Big Data MBA: Driving Business Strategies with Data Science," is responsible for setting the strategy and defining the Big Data service offerings and capabilities for EMC Global Services Big Data Practice. As the CTO for the Big Data Practice, he is responsible for working with organizations to help them identify where and how to start their big data journeys. He's written several white papers, is an avid blogge...
Nicolas Fierro is CEO of MIMIR Blockchain Solutions. He is a programmer, technologist, and operations dev who has worked with Ethereum and blockchain since 2014. His knowledge in blockchain dates to when he performed dev ops services to the Ethereum Foundation as one the privileged few developers to work with the original core team in Switzerland.
René Bostic is the Technical VP of the IBM Cloud Unit in North America. Enjoying her career with IBM during the modern millennial technological era, she is an expert in cloud computing, DevOps and emerging cloud technologies such as Blockchain. Her strengths and core competencies include a proven record of accomplishments in consensus building at all levels to assess, plan, and implement enterprise and cloud computing solutions. René is a member of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) and a m...
Andrew Keys is Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise. He comes to ConsenSys Enterprise with capital markets, technology and entrepreneurial experience. Previously, he worked for UBS investment bank in equities analysis. Later, he was responsible for the creation and distribution of life settlement products to hedge funds and investment banks. After, he co-founded a revenue cycle management company where he learned about Bitcoin and eventually Ethereal. Andrew's role at ConsenSys Enterprise is a mul...
Whenever a new technology hits the high points of hype, everyone starts talking about it like it will solve all their business problems. Blockchain is one of those technologies. According to Gartner's latest report on the hype cycle of emerging technologies, blockchain has just passed the peak of their hype cycle curve. If you read the news articles about it, one would think it has taken over the technology world. No disruptive technology is without its challenges and potential impediments t...
If a machine can invent, does this mean the end of the patent system as we know it? The patent system, both in the US and Europe, allows companies to protect their inventions and helps foster innovation. However, Artificial Intelligence (AI) could be set to disrupt the patent system as we know it. This talk will examine how AI may change the patent landscape in the years to come. Furthermore, ways in which companies can best protect their AI related inventions will be examined from both a US and...
Bill Schmarzo, Tech Chair of "Big Data | Analytics" of upcoming CloudEXPO | DXWorldEXPO New York (November 12-13, 2018, New York City) today announced the outline and schedule of the track. "The track has been designed in experience/degree order," said Schmarzo. "So, that folks who attend the entire track can leave the conference with some of the skills necessary to get their work done when they get back to their offices. It actually ties back to some work that I'm doing at the University of San...
When talking IoT we often focus on the devices, the sensors, the hardware itself. The new smart appliances, the new smart or self-driving cars (which are amalgamations of many ‘things'). When we are looking at the world of IoT, we should take a step back, look at the big picture. What value are these devices providing. IoT is not about the devices, its about the data consumed and generated. The devices are tools, mechanisms, conduits. This paper discusses the considerations when dealing with the...