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Update arms Raspbian against IoT attacks

Raspberry Pi + Debian = raspbianBecause the Internet of Things (IoT) has excelled in recent months as a risk not only for users’ own IT, but also as a botnet, Raspbian developers have now responded and given their operating system an update verpasst, German IT news site heise reports. This Debian-based Linux distribution is a popular base upon which to run a Raspberry Pi.

Steps to secure the Pi

In practice the developers have deactivated the SSH port and service which were previously activated as standard. According to the accompanying blog post, the developers had previously assumed that users would deactivate this port and service themselves when using a public network. To make matters worse, when first set up Raspbian pre-configures a default user account and password. This combination with the likewise pre-configured sudo could not have made it very difficult at all for attackers.

Users can activate SSH as usual via raspi-config. If anyone who wants to enable SSH, all they need to do is to put a file called ssh in the /boot/ directory. The contents of the file don’t matter: it can contain any text users like, or even nothing at all. It simply acts as a marker. When the Pi boots, it looks for this file; if it finds it, it enables SSH and then deletes the file. SSH can still be turned on or off from the Raspberry Pi Configuration application or raspi-config. However, as regards the problem of the pre-configured user account, the developers are providing a warning after the Pi has booted… if SSH is running.

Sadiq Khan unveils £7 mn. fund to help young Londoners access tech jobs

Sadiq KhanYesterday the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, announced a £7 mn. programme to arm young Londoners with the skills needed to get jobs in the city’s thriving digital, technology and creative sectors.

Called the Digital Talent Programme, the scheme will have a particular focus on boosting the proportion of women in the industry (currently just 17%), as well as working to raise the numbers of black, Asian and minority ethnic Londoners and those from disadvantaged communities employed in those sectors.

Furthermore, it will help Londoners access tech jobs by offering work placements, creating tailored learning opportunities, assisting university students and helping businesses to access the skills they need.

The Digital Talent Programme will boost the number of young Londoners finding tech sector employment by:

  • Increasing the number of high-quality learning opportunities for young people aged 15-24 years to study industry-designed courses in technology, digital and digital-creative disciplines that will lead to employment;
  • Supporting 1,000 young Londoners to access new, industry approved learning opportunities;
  • Assisting 500 university students to gain new skills and work experience through small business placements;
  • Helping 400 start-ups and small businesses to access higher level skills that will support business growth;
  • Supporting 400 school and Further Education teachers in providing industry-relevant digital skills learning and qualifications;
  • Assisting 2,000 young Londoners to access better information, sign-posting, careers guidance and events for digital, technology and digital-creative roles;
  • Working with organisations to organise events, careers advice, role models and more to change perceptions of tech being just for boys.

There are now around 40,000 tech businesses in London, employing almost 200,000 people, 3.5% of the capital’s total workforce.

However, there is a growing gap between the skills of young Londoners and those that the capital’s digital and technology businesses need if they are to continue to thrive.

Overall, the Digital Talent Programme will invest £5 mn. from the London Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and £2 mn. from the European Social Fund.

Any Londoners reading this who are keen to register their interest for the Digital Talent programme can do so at

Kaspersky launches its own secure OS

Russian security software company Kaspersky has announced the development of a secure operating system. Installed on a network switch, this K-OS has been designed from scratch without borrowing from Linux, yesterday’s Le Monde Informatique reports

In security as doubtless elsewhere we are never better looked after than by ourselves. That’s what Kaspersky must be thinking when raising the curtain on its own secure operating system. Announced by company founder Eugene Kaspersky, this secure operating system has been loaded for the time being onto a layer 3 switch and it will also be used to secure IoT environments. “This OS just so happens to be ideal for applications where a small, optimized and secure platform is required,” Kaspersky remarked.

Few technical details have so far been released. One of the these is that the Kaspersky OS is based on a microkernel architecture enabling various changes to the operating system to be assembled according to specific customer requirements. In addition, a security system controls the behaviour of the OS’ applications and modules. “In order to hack this platform a cyber-baddie would need to break the digital signature, which – any time before the introduction of quantum computers – would be exorbitantly expensive”, Eugene Kaspersky warned.

Finally the software publisher pointed out that the Kaspersky OS is not based on any Linux component, thinking it was simpler and more secure to start from nothing when designing it, a process which started no less than 14 years ago.

Feeling Insecure at the Engine Shed

Bristol Wireless member Nigel Legg writes:

The focus of the fourth Bristol & Bath IoT meetup on Monday 21st November was security – making your things secure. There have been some DDoS attacks that used insecure internet-connected consumer goods to create botnets, and Carl Shaw from Cerberus Security Labs talked us through a process to ensure that our deployments would not succumb. He highlighted the recent example of Philips Hue lightbulbs all having the same encryption keys for connection as a failing.

Jon Hatton-Brown from Dyson used Carpy, a wall-mounted, WiFi-connected talking fish which uses the Amazon Alexa system, as an example of security failings in consumer IoT: in order to use Carpy, you have to send passwords through an unencrypted connection, which I insecure. He explained the more complex system for getting started with the Dyson autonomous vacuum cleaner, and agreed that a system that could “just work” would be best from the consumer point of view, but probably not secure enough.

It’s important to remember that Internet of Things security is not just about stopping someone from doing your cleaning or playing with your lights; once a hacker has control of your device they can use it to attack other sites on the internet. As security between nodes and the Gateway is embedded in the LoRaWAN protocol, and between gateway and back-end is covered by the https connection, we should not have too many issues with this, though it is always important to consider.

Mike Bartley, founder of Test and Verification Solutions, gave a lightning talk, outlining their services, and I (Nigel Legg) gave a rapid covering the content on the Bristol LoRaWAN slide I’d been asked to prepare. There was a lot of interest afterwards over beer and pizza (kindly provided by Dyson), I was able to answer most of the questions put to me. I think we will have a good turn out for the second LoRaWAN Bristol meetup (sign up here), where hopefully more questions will be answered.

Stoke to provide residents with cheap broadband

Some 15,000 households in Stoke-on-Trent (population: 251,000) don’t have an internet connection at present, but Stoke-on-Trent City Council wants to change that, according to yesterday’s Sentinel, by offering cut-price broadband deals.

Stoke-on-Trent photo montage

The local authority estimates estimates this “digital divide” is costing the Potteries’ poorest families up to £21 mn. per annum and is looking to secure cheap connectivity deals for its 19,000 tenants and other residents on low incomes.

The measure forms part of the council’s new digital inclusion strategy which seeks to support those who have been “left behind by the pace and scale of digital transformation“.

The digital inclusion strategy states that not being able to afford broadband one of four main barriers to digital inclusion, the others being a lack of basic IT skills, physical or learning disabilities and a lack of awareness of the potential financial and social benefits of being online.

Other elements of the council’s strategy include the following:

  • Providing basic ICT courses for to 4,500 people a year;
  • Offering family learning sessions in schools to train 800 parents annually in basic ICT skills;
  • Training library staff to help claimants fill out Universal Credit application forms (this benefit can only be claimed online. Ed.);
  • Exploring options for providing free internet access in children’s centres.

In addition to this scheme, Stoke-on-Trent City Council is still contemplating the provision of wi-fi hotspots in the city centre and public buildings to improve residents’ connectivity further.

Swansea to be pilot location for BT’s new technology

Yesterday’s Wales Online reports that Swansea will be first cities in Britain where residents will be able to enjoy ultra-fast broadband with download speeds of up to 330Mbps, i.e. up to 10 times the UK’s current average download speed.

Fibre-optic cable
Picture credit: By – CC BY-SA 4.0,

Details are still scant, but “thousands” of Swansea premises will be able to access this new technology in 2017, with the city forming one of BT Openreach’s 17 pilot areas that are intended to include some 140,000 homes and businesses.

The technology uses existing copper pairs to provide the high speed connectivity from the local distribution cabinets to which fibre-optic cables have been run.

Shropshire to tackle broadband “not-spots”

image of fibre optic cableBroadband “not-spots” across Shropshire will be tackled in a £12 mn. scheme to connect more than 16,000 properties, Saturday’s Shropshire Star reports.

Phase 2b of the Connecting Shropshire broadband programme is now being launched with the emphasis on bringing decent broadband to those Salopians who currently don’t have it.

Of the 16,000 properties being targeted, 13,259 are in the east of the county and 2,756 in the west.

Phase 2b aims to extend so-called “superfast” broadband coverage (up to 30 Mbps. Ed.) to a further 16,015 premises in Shropshire, using £11.7 mn. of funding under the central governments BDUK scheme.

Shropshire Council has already invested £9 mn. through two earlier broadband contracts – Phases 1 and 2a.

Phase 1 will be completed this winter. Phase 2a has already started and will provide better broadband to a further 4,000 premises by winter 2017.

Free software given priority in Russian bill

coat_of_arms_of_the_russian_federationRussia’s legislators have drafted a bill (PDF – in Russian) that will boost free software on many levels within the country’s public sector.

The draft, approved by the Duma (lower house of parliament) in mid-October, requires the public sector to prioritise free software over proprietary alternatives, gives priority to local IT businesses offering free software for public tenders and recognises the need to encourage collaboration with the global network of free software organisations and communities.

The text enforces free software’s precedence over proprietary alternatives by requiring public administrations to provide formal justification for any proprietary software purchase. Purchases will be considered unjustified if there is a free software solution that meets the technical specifications and standards. In addition, all public sector IT purchase agreements must be registered with a dedicated registrar, detailing the volume and price of both proprietary and free software purchased.

IT companies that distribute and provide free software products and services will by default receive
bonus points in public tenders in order to encourage local businesses, since legislators intend to
reduce public sector dependency on foreign proprietary software providers.

Bristol’s CFMS launches new supercomputer

The Centre for Modelling & Simulation (CFMS), a not-for-profit organisation that specialises in high value design capability, which is based at the Bristol & Bath Science Park, launched a new supercomputer last week.

Cray CS400Announced in June 2016, CFMS awarded the contract for the refresh of its high performance computing infrastructure to Cray Inc., a global leader in supercomputing. The new system consists of a Cray® CS400 cluster supercomputer, utilising Intel® Xeon® processor E5-2600 v4 product family formerly codenamed “Broadwell” with a parallel storage system provided by ArcaStream. NVIDIA Tesla® GPU accelerators are also included and used to accelerate applications, providing users with faster response times and enhanced performance levels for demanding computational tasks.

Up to five times more powerful than the previous system, industry organisations including Rolls-Royce and Airbus use the CFMS High Performance Computing (HPC) cluster for research and methods development, which underpins simulation-based design activities. Undertaking a collaborative role, CFMS acts as an interface between industry, academia and technology organisations, offering access to advanced simulation expertise and technologies that enable companies to accelerate product development and engineering design capability.

CFMS operates across a number of sectors including aerospace and defence, automotive, civil engineering and renewable energy. Access to the new system is open to both large and small companies.

Sam Paice, CFMS’ Chief Operating Officer said: “With an evolution in engineering design taking place, we are welcoming a new era, one where advanced simulation takes centre stage, accelerating product development and differentiation, while enabling technological advantages and business growth. We are pleased to announce the availability of the new supercomputing cluster at CFMS.”

Free CiviCRM seminar in London

CiviCRM logoMTL Group company NfP Services are hosting a free CiviCRM seminar at their offices at 340 Gray’s Inn Road London, WC1X 8BG (map).

The seminar will also include refreshments and lunch and will run from 10.00 a.m. to 1.30 p.m.

During this session the organisers will be demonstrating CiviCRM’s amazing functionality and flexibility and explaining how NfP Services can help in taking a low risk route to implementing its use. NfP will also be providing live examples of existing systems and how current clients are reaping the enormous benefits of this fully functional, open-source, web-based CRM system.

The event is ideal for anyone who is new to CiviCRM and would like to find out more, as well as existing users looking to get more from their software.

Register here for this seminar or alternatively contact James on 020 7843 4400 / 07808 304 595 or email james [at]