Cisco Challenging Programmers to Secure the Internet of Things

The burgeoning evolution of “Internet of Things” has prompted Cisco to issue a challenge to programmers to address these security issues before they go on to become bigger problems.

As seemingly every new gadget and electronic device is coming retrofitted with an Internet connection these days – appliances, cars and medical devices a few chief examples, the floodgates have opened ever wider for an alarming number of new attack vectors.

The burgeoning evolution of “Internet of Things,” (IoT) as the concept has colloquially become known over the last few years, has prompted Cisco Systems to issue a challenge to programmers to address these security issues before they go on to become bigger problems.

In what its dubbed the Internet of Things Security Grand Challenge the company is offering up to $300,000 in prize money to members of the global security community who propose the best practical security solutions “across the markets being impacted daily by the IoT.”

Cisco Security Group Senior VP Chris Young explains the contest of sorts on the company’s main blog, writing that $50,000 to $75,000 will be awarded to up to six recipients. According to the challenge’s site, the deadline for submissions will be June 17 and the winners will be announced at the company’s second annual Internet of Things World Forum in Barcelona, Spain later this year.

Young notes that proposals will be based on four criteria:

  • Feasibility, scalability, performance and ease-of-use
  • Applicability to address multiple IoT verticals (manufacturing, mass transportation, healthcare, oil and gas, smart grid, etc.
  • Technical maturity/viability of proposed approach
  • Proposers’ expertise and ability to feasibly create a successful outcome

“As our connected lives grow and become more richer, the need for a new security model becomes even more critical,” Young wrote.

The security instabilities of cars and medical devices have been made clear over the past several years. In 2013 researchers Chris Valasek and Charlie Miller published a thorough paper describing how they were able to hack some Ford and Toyota brand cars to control the steering, braking and other functions while they were driving. Meanwhile the Food and Drug Administration urged medical device manufacturers to take security more seriously last year, handing down a series of suggestions intended on shoring up often vulnerable devices like insulin pumps, pacemakers, and defibrillators.

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