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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 G.fast 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 http://www.ictas.vt.edu – CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=45474605

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 G.fast 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] millertech.co.uk.

FSFE appoints new Vice President

FSFE logoThe Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) has announced that Alessandro Rubini has stepped down as Vice-president of the FSFE.

Alessandro, an electronic engineer with Ph. D. in a computer science, brought invaluable insight to the internal discussions within the FSFE and has worked tirelessly to push the Free Software envelope in Italy and the rest of Europe.

He has now stood down to concentrate on his work with the free software community in Italy, but remains an active member of the FSFE and continues contributing his time generously to the organisation.

Taking over from Alessandro is Heiki Lõhmus, an Estonian student of aeronautical engineering. Heiki started collaborating with the FSFE when he “discovered some Estonianlanguage gibberish on fsfe.org purporting to be a translation of an English original, which it definitely was not”. He quickly became involved in the translation process and became the translation co-ordinator.

Heiki has also served on the FSFE’s board from 2013 to 2015, changing the way contributions are valued, ensuring volunteers and paying members of the organisation enjoy the same benefits for their contributions.

Beyond his work at the FSFE, Heiki has actively lobbied the Estonian government to publish the software used for the Estonian elections as free software. “Estonia is the only country in the world where it is possible to vote over the internet,” says Heiki, and relying on proprietary software to do so is a security risk and does not inspire much trust. Heiki works along with other activists to get the software published under a free licence.

Free unlimited wifi at 180 French railway stations

French railway company SNCF has announced that free and unlimited wifi is available at 180 French railway stations and deployment is currently underway at stations in the Ile-de-France region.

sncf wifi publicity

Wifi access is available in station passenger buildings; this excludes platforms, subways and station forecourts). It will also be available at underground stations in the Ile-de-France region (such as e.g. Paris Gare de Lyon, Paris Gare du Nord, Paris-Austerlitz). The service can be accessed via laptop, tablet or smartphone.

To access station wifi, SNCF instructs passengers to select the network SNCF gare-gratuit. When users open their internet browsers, they will be directed automatically to the access portal, where 2 choices are available, as follows:

  • Connecting to standard rate WiFi Classique (512kb/s): direct access to the unlimited free service for 20 minutes, with no registration required. Beyond that time, users will be asked to reconnect;
  • Connecting to high-rate WiFi Ultra-Rapide (2Mb/s): after viewing a page of advertising, users will be asked to fill in a form giving their surname, first name and password; they will then be asked to accept the service’s terms and conditions before connecting. Passengers’ user account details will enable them to connect at all stations offering the wifi service. Viewing the advertisement will allow users to connect for an unlimited time.

SNCF’s station wifi service is provided by wifi service provider Nomosphère.

LibreOffice Online now available in Pydio

Today Collabora announced that Pydio 7, the latest release of the popular open source synchronisation & sharing platform, includes LibreOffice Online functionality created by Collabora Productivity.

Collabora Online working in Pydio

Collabora Productivity is the driving force behind putting LibreOffice in the cloud, providing a range of products and consulting to enterprise and government. It’s a leading contributor to the LibreOffice codebase and community. Its Collabora Office for Desktop and Collabora Online products provide a business-hardened office suite with long-term, multi-platform support.

Pydio is the world’s largest open source file sharing and synchronisation project for business. The Pydio Project delivers a sustainable balance between the needs of business customers and the collaborative spirit of open source. Sold in 25 countries around the world, Pydio is used by leading brands such as Nikon.

Collabora Online in Pydio is available for enterprise deployments and community edition home users. For more information about the release or an online demo, readers should contact sales [at] pydio.com or sales [at] collaboraoffice.com.