Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : July 23rd 2015 Contents BG22 THE ECONOMIST
BUSINESS GUARDIAN www.guardian.co.tt JULY 23 • 2015
Computer security is tricky.
Just ask the US Office of
On July 9, it admitted that hackers had pur-
loined the sensitive personal information of 22
million government employees. Or Anthem, a
big insurance firm which reported in January
that 80 million customer records had been
stolen. Or the National Security Agency, which
in 2013 suffered the biggest leak in its history
when Edward Snowden, a contractor, walked
out with a vast trove of secret documents.
Unfortunately, computer security is about to
get trickier. Computers have already spread from
people s desktops into their pockets. Now they
are embedding themselves in all sorts of gadgets,
from cars and televisions to children s toys,
refrigerators and industrial kit. Cisco, a maker
of networking equipment, estimates there are
15 billion connected devices in the world today.
By 2020, according to Cisco, that number could
climb to 50 billion. Boosters promise that a
world of networked computers and sensors will
be a place of unparalleled convenience and effi-
ciency. They call it the "Internet of things."
Computer-security experts call it a disaster
in the making. They worry that, in their rush
to bring cyber-widgets to market, the companies
that produce them have not learned the lessons
of the early years of the Internet. The big com-
puting firms of the 1980s and 1990s treated
security as an afterthought. Only once the threats
---in the forms of viruses, hacking attacks and
so on---became apparent, did Microsoft, Apple
and the rest start trying to fix things. But bolting
on security after the fact is much harder than
building it in from the start.
The same mistake is being repeated with the
Internet of things. Examples are already emerging
of the risks posed by turning everyday objects
into computers. In one case a hacker found he
could remotely control the pump that dispensed
Others have disabled the brakes and power-
steering on new cars. Cyber-criminals are a cre-
ative lot. In the future, a computerised washing
machine or fridge might be subverted to send
out spam emails, for instance, or to host child
pornography; or a computerised front door
might refuse to let you in until you hand over
a bitcoin ransom.
Three things would help make the Internet
of things less vulnerable.
The first is some basic regulatory standards.
Widget-makers should be compelled to ensure
their products are capable of being patched to
fix any security holes that might be uncovered
after they have been sold. If a device can be
administered remotely, users should be forced
to change the default username and password,
to prevent hackers from using them to gain
access. Security-breach laws, already in place
in most American states, should oblige com-
panies to own up to problems instead of trying
to hide them.
The second defence is a proper liability regime.
For decades software-makers have written licens-
ing agreements disclaiming responsibility for
any bad consequences of using their products.
As computers become integrated into everything
from cars to medical devices, that stance will
become untenable. Software developers may
have to agree to a presumption of how things
should work, for instance, which would open
them to legal action if it were breached. It is
never too early for insurers, manufacturers and
developers to begin to explore such issues.
Third, companies in all industries must heed
the lessons computing firms learned long ago.
Writing completely secure code is almost impos-
sible. As a consequence, a culture of openness
is the best defense, because it helps spread fixes.
When academic researchers contacted a chip-
maker working for Volkswagen to say they had
found a vulnerability in a remote-car-key system,
Volkswagen s response included a court injunc-
tion. Shooting the messenger does not work.
Indeed, firms like Google now offer monetary
rewards, or "bug bounties," to hackers who con-
tact them with details of flaws they have
Thirty years ago, computer-makers that failed
to take security seriously could claim ignorance
as a defense. No longer. The Internet of things
will bring many benefits. The time to plan for
its inevitable flaws is now.
@2015 The Economist Newspaper Ltd. Dis-
tributed by the New York Times Syndicate
The world s oldest map,
etched into the wall of a
cave in Spain 14,000 years
ago, charted the best loca-
tions to hunt for food.
Today companies are com-
peting in their own hunt
to control the future of
mapping technology. Nokia, a telecom-equip-
ment maker, is looking to sell its digital-mapping
division, Here, for up to US$4 billion, according
to reports, and may announce within weeks
which of several bidders has won.
Here is coveted prey because it is one of only
three firms---the other two are TomTom of the
Netherlands and Google---that have mapped
the world s streets extensively, at a time when
mapping is becoming more important to the
future of commerce and transport. Four-fifths
of new cars with a built-in mapping system in
North America and Europe use Here.
Many smartphone apps rely on mapping
technology to locate nearby shops and services,
such as where to buy coffee or get a haircut.
To build up reliable, usable maps takes a lot of
time and money. The biggest mapping firms
have sent out fleets of cars to record streets
features in fine detail. Even Apple, the technology
giant that is accustomed to dominating markets
it enters, has struggled to offer a credible mapping
service. It has only just added public-transport
information to its maps, a feature that Google
has been offering for years.
When tech firms go up for sale, they rarely
attract such a diverse array of prospective buyers.
A coalition of carmakers, including Audi, BMW
and Daimler of Germany, appear to be the
favoured purchasers of Here, though price is
reportedly a sticking-point. Nonetheless, they
are likely to drive ahead with the deal: They do
not want to surrender the future of mapping
to Google, which is investing heavily in self-
driving cars and in an operating system for vehi-
cles. Private-equity firms have also expressed
Uber, a taxi-hailing company, and Baidu, a
Chinese internet giant, reportedly teamed up
for their own bid (although the most recent
whispers suggest they may be out of the run-
ning). Mapping and navigation are core to Uber s
business, but drivers find its current mapping
services patchy: They are directed to take cir-
cuitous routes, or down streets heavy with traf-
fic.Whichever buyer wins will pay much less
than the US$8.1 billion that Nokia paid for
Navteq, the mapping business that became
Here, in 2008, just before the peak of the financial
crisis. One reason is that since then the tech-
nology to draw digital maps has got better and
cheaper. Google, too, has had a hand in pushing
down prices: It makes its maps free to consumers
and cheap to other companies, because this
helps to feed it with the data it needs to sell
location-based ads and enhances loyalty to its
products. Digital-mapping services may be
increasingly important for all sorts of businesses,
but with Google acting as a strong deflationary
force in the short term, it is not clear that map-
making in itself is a very profitable business.
For profits to rise much for rival mapping firms,
Google would probably have to raise its prices.
Nonetheless, demand for mapping keeps
expanding, as online commerce grows more
reliant on precise location.
"Every mile and minute now matters from
a business standpoint," said Shiva Shivakumar
of Urban Engines, a startup that studies com-
muting patterns. On-demand companies, like
Uber, thrive when they can accurately gauge a
customer s location and route a driver or package
to them quickly. Recently Uber acquired engi-
neers, cameras and mapping patents from
Microsoft, to build up its own capabilities, in
case Google stops making its maps available to
firms that compete with it in some way. Uber
may soon be in that category: On July 6, Waze,
a mapping company from Israel owned by
Google, announced a trial of a ride-sharing
service in Tel Aviv.
Maps will become even more critical if self-
driving cars make inroads. They will need to
know every pothole and every obstacle in every
street, down to the nearest inch. But as John
Ristevski of Here points out, they will be packed
with sensors that will generate huge amounts
of data, in real time, that will help mapping
companies keep their maps accurate.
In the modern age, maps are "living things"
that are constantly updated, said Martin Garner
of CCS Insight, a research firm. If only the cave-
men could see them now.
@2015 The Economist Newspaper Ltd. Distrib-
uted by the New York Times Syndicate
Hacking the planet
Location, location, location
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