Podcast Episode 129: Repair Eye on the CES Guy and Sensor Insecurity

In this week’s podcast: For all the great new gadgets unveiled in Las Vegas, how many can be repaired? Kyle Wiens of iFixit joins us to report from the CES show. Also: more and more our physical surroundings are populated by small, wireless sensors. How secure are they from hacking and manipulation? Not very says our second guest, Roi Mit of the firm Regulus Cyber.

Part 1: Repair Eye on the CES Guy

The Consumer Electronics Show wrapped up last week. All the hoopla about VR, AI, drones, massive TV screens and powerful new laptops drowned out a nagging question: how long will any of this new technology last? What will happen to it when it breaks? When batteries expire or parts fail? Such questions are forbidden at glitzy shows like CES that focus on the wonders of new gadgets but ignore the burdens of old ones.

CES 2019
The CES show is a bonanza of cool new gadgets and technologies. But what happens to those devices as they age? Is repair part of the plan? We talk with Kyle Wiens of iFixit about his visit to CES.

Fortunately, at least one person among the 180,000 or so visitors to CES was thinking about issues like repair and reuse. He is Kyle Wiens, the founder and chief evangelist at iFixit.org, the Internet’s leading repair website. In the first segment of our podcast this week, we sat down with Kyle to talk about what he saw at CES, whether repair was on the agenda at the show and whether any of the cool new things on the show floor there are fix-able.

See also: Researchers Warn of Physics-Based Attacks on Sensors

Kyle said the lack of conversation about the durability of new devices is shocking, as is the tendency towards less sturdy, serviceable stuff: laptops and headphones that are glued, rather than screwed together. Electronics with batteries that cannot be replaced. The culture of consumer electronics is a culture of waste, he says, and nobody seems to be talking about it.

Part 2: Sensing insecurity

From automobiles to industrial robots to street lights and smart personal electronics, more and more of our private and public space is being equipped with sensors. Small, wireless sensors that communicate using bluetooth or long range wireless technologies monitor everything from braking and tire pressure on a moving vehicle to the load on a bridge, the pressure in a gas line to a patient’s heart rate.

See also: Updated: A New Lobbying Group is fighting Right to Repair Laws

But are these sensors secure and, if not, how will we know if the information they’re feeding us about the world is accurate and reliable? Those are questions that Regulus, an Israel based cyber security start up is tackling. In our second segment, we sat down with Roi Mit, Regulus’s chief marketing officer, about the company’s technology and the sensor security problem.

Roi told me that attacks on sensors are still rare, but that the stakes of such attacks are growing by the day, as businesses and individuals come to rely more on automation and sensing machines such as smart and driverless vehicles.

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