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article imageCan you defend the Internet of Things? You could win $25,000

By James Walker     Jan 5, 2017 in Technology
The FTC has announced a $25,000 prize to be awarded to innovators who develop a system that secures smart home devices. It's a response to the critical vulnerabilities found on a monthly basis in modern "smart" Internet of Things (IoT) products.
Tech companies are pitching IoT as the next big thing in consumer tech. With smart lights, kettles and thermostats already creeping into homes, people are expected to open their arms to always-on Wi-Fi-connected household objects. The only issue is that most are hopelessly insecure.
In a bid to overcome the problems around smart home security, America's Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has announced a contest with a $25,000 prize attached. The Internet of Things Home Inspector Challenge tasks innovators, entrepreneurs and everyday "creative tech tinkerers" with creating a tool that addresses the vulnerabilities in IoT devices plagued by outdated software.
The brief is quite wide and it'll be left up to each entrant to fill in the details of what they build. The product must be able to mitigate the issues that outdated software can cause. How it does that will be the creator's responsibility. The FTC suggests physical devices, apps and cloud-based services could be potential ways of approaching the competition. It's also remaining open to something "entirely different", keeping the criteria broad to inspire innovation.
The FTC explained:
"We’re asking innovators to come up with a tech solution to the security vulnerabilities caused when IoT household products are running out-of-date software. Perhaps it’s a physical device people could add to their home networks that would install security updates for other devices on that network. Or it could be an app, cloud-based service, or dashboard. Or maybe it’s something entirely different that you’ve been noodling through for some time now. Come up with the idea selected by an expert panel of five judges and you could win the big prize."
Although the contest is likely to be won by an established entrepreneur in the field, everyone is welcome to compete. Submissions that receive honourable mentions will each be awarded a $3,000 prize, with the main $25,000 sum going to the individual or team that wins the challenge. The closing date for initial entries is May 22, 2017. 20 submissions will then be selected to proceed further in the judging.
The contest has launched in the wake of a spate of news reports demonstrating the vulnerabilities in current IoT products. In November, security researchers demonstrated how an Internet-connected webcam could be hijacked from across the web to spy on users. In October, hackers "weaponised" smart home products including printers and video recorders to direct a massive cyberattack that knocked much of the Internet offline in the U.S.A.
While there's no sign of the problem going away in this product generation, the FTC's contest could create a solution that helps protect the smart homes of the future. The challenge opens on March 1 and will be complete by the end of July.
More about internet of things, IoT, Cybersecurity, Smart home, smart devices
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