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24 Jan 2015

Encryption Key Series – Part 1 – What Is a Key?

Last week I met with a customer to help solve, among other things, some challenges around key management and key lifecycles. I thought I’d kick off a blog series on keys: what they are, their generation, use, recommended strength, etc.

First, let’s briefly address what a key is: a key is what protects your data. It’s a (hopefully!) secret parameter fed into an encryption algorithm to obfuscate data in a way that only someone with the same key can decrypt the data and read it as intended.*

Here’s how I explained it to my 10-year-old daughter:

Think about the door to our house. When the door is locked, only someone with a key can get inside. (Ok sounds more like authorization but stay with me). When inserted and turned, the key hits the pins that triggers the locking mechanism and unlocks the door. That key is the only key that can lock and unlock our door.

While quite elementary in my mind, it’s a relatively good example of the value and importance of the key lifecycle, which I briefly discussed with my daughter after she asked the following questions:

  • What if someone copies the key?
  • What if our neighbors lose our spare key?
  • How do we know if someone else used our key?
  • Does someone else’s key work in our lock?

All are relevant questions in relation to cryptography as well. Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll talk about how keys should be generated, ideal key sizes, and general key management issues and best practices.

Fair warning: there is no single, correct answer. We’ll use this series to address dependencies and variables such as environments, data sensitivity, and threat models.

*This is known as symmetric encryption, where one key encrypts and decrypts data. In asymmetric encryption a public key is used to encrypt data and only its associated private key can decrypt the data.

 

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5 Jan 2015

My Worry and Optimism for Cybersecurity in 2015

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Let’s face it – 2014 was pretty bad from an information security perspective, and I believe we will see a rise in the frequency, severity, and publicity of malicious hacks and breaches in 2015.

I’m worried that as a community, hell, as a society, we won’t see enough progress in this uphill battle of infosec. I’m not blaming anyone or pointing fingers. Security is hard because every organization is different: different people, different policies, different network topologies, different vendors, different missions, etc. (and that is why there is no silver bullet for security). In general, I’m worried about some SMBs that lack the resources to set up a proactive security posture. I’m concerned about some large enterprises that will continue to lag and not fully embrace security.

But… I’m optimistic. Security is at the tip of everyone’s tongue now. It’s “cool” … and cool is good.

SMBs have options for cloud productivity and storage solutions with security built in – at the very least, better security than what they could do themselves. Larger organizations can integrate many different solutions to enable their security posture.

Security is about defense-in-depth, which is to say having security at all layers, from policy and training to two-factor auth and encryption. Aggregate organizational differences can be met with the right technologies in the right place.

I’m optimistic because there are so many good and talented people working very hard to stay ahead of the bad guys. There are new technologies and new ways of thinking. There are VCs willing to fund such companies. There is more adoption and acceptance of security in the marketplace. There are companies with an assigned CISO to keep their business focused on security and out of the news.

So how do we make 2015 better to ease my worrying and reinforce my optimism?

Everyone: keep evangelizing. We have to keep talking about security and encouraging it. We need to think about security in new and emerging markets like wearables and IoT. I think after all the news in 2014, stakeholders are starting to get it. Perhaps we need better / tighter regulations. We need to talk about what’s real, what’s viable, and what’s manageable.

Product vendors: build security into your lifecycle. It’s doable. Microsoft initiated the Security Development Lifecycle with impressive if not astounding results. Cisco is doing it, along with many others. Security is a process. Bake it in to your software development. It’s good for you and your customers.

Buyers: check for the right encryption. Not all encryption is equal. Is your vendor using homegrown encryption written by Joe the Intern? Or is it standards-based? Just because a vendor says they implement AES doesn’t mean they do it correctly. Encryption needs to be correct to be true and interoperable. Look for FIPS 140 validation on your preferred vendor’s encryption library or ask for the certificate number.

All businesses: Assess the value of your data and where it resides. Then deploy the right products. Security is a process. Organizational security starts with security risk management, which guides the organization in protecting its assets. Before selecting security controls, the organization must know what data it needs to protect, the value of that data, and the lifecycle of that data. Whether protecting credit card numbers, user files, intellectual property, internal emails, provocative Mardi Gras photos, product roadmaps, money… all of that needs to be protected in an organized and actionable way.


Over time, we’ll explore more in each of these areas. In the meantime, this worrier is optimistic that we will stay focused, deliver, and do our best to make 2015 better.

 

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22 Dec 2014

The Sony Hack Just Does Not Matter

Several times this year we’ve heard about hacks and compromised systems (more so than I can remember in recent history), and I have to say I’m truly amazed at all the press on the Sony hack. But why is this garnering so much attention?

Simply put, its effects are felt by a wider audience.The_Interview_2014_poster

  • Sony cares because of loss of revenue and tarnished reputation.
  • Movie stakeholders (the producers, actors, etc.) care because it could impact them financially. I have never read the relevant agreements for this industry, but I’m sure there is a force majeure clause that will now be subject to an unprecedented interpretation and a great deal of legal precedence going forward.
  • Theater owners / workers care because of supposed threats against their establishment, loss of revenue, and the inconvenience of replacing a movie in their lineup.
  • Consumers care because they can’t see a movie with some very funny comedians.

Banks or retailers get hacked and it makes the news for a couple of days and fades. Maybe it’s not serious enough? The Home Depot, Target, and Staples attacks don’t really take anything away from the consumer. They can still shop at those places, albeit with new credit card numbers. So they don’t really feel the effects. An entertainment company is hacked and it’s an act of war cyber-vandalism. So much so that the President has weighed in and vowed a response. I guess compromising a retailer is just a nuisance.

Finally, there is breach that consumers actually care about. The JPMorgan breach doesn’t directly affect the average family. We are, sadly, getting accustomed to being issued new credit cards and putting band aids on breaches in that industry. We can tolerate the Fortune 50 losing money, but don’t mess with our entertainment. That is intrinsically American.

Perhaps I should rethink this title, as now attackers may have found an avenue that will encourage even more attacks. And let’s face it: we have thoughts of actual war dancing through our heads. This isn’t script kiddies and folks just looking to make a quick buck. These are hackers with nukes.

At SafeLogic we’ve done a fair bit of evangelizing this year, trying to get makers of IoT devices and health wearables to build security in as opposed to treating it as a cost center and a reactive initiative. So with that in mind, let’s think about this:

If halting the release of a movie gets this much attention and buzz , what happens if critical infrastructure is compromised? What if people can’t get water? Or they get only contaminated water? What if the power grid is blacked out? What happens when connected “things” are compromised? These are the absolute scariest scenarios, the effects of which are far more impactful than what you’ve been reading about this week. These effects are real.

Let’s not discover what happens in these “what if” scenarios. We need awareness and we need plans and we need action. I’m hoping that everyone takes the Sony hacks to heart and thinks about what truly matters… Especially this time of year.

Oh, and encrypt your data with SafeLogic’s validated and widely-deployed encryption solutions.

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27 Oct 2014

Exposing the Risks of Data-Driven Healthcare

BlogFooter_Guest_JaredThis is a guest post from blogger Jared Hill as a special contribution to SafeLogic.

The recent Heartbleed and POODLE data leaks exposed some of the major dangers of living in a digitized world. With the entire healthcare system becoming increasingly reliant upon digital organizational systems, a patient’s most private information — prescriptions, records, communications, you name it — might be vulnerable to hacks. While many hoped doctor-patient confidentiality and legal privacy rights would be easily applicable across the board, this guarantee can simply not be made in the digital realm.

Illegally obtained medical records promise huge sums of money on the black market, more so than customer or banking information, or even risque photos of famous celebrities. Certain kinds of personal information are very valuable for those wanting to pose as someone else in order to obtain medical care. Although there are dozens of cybersecurity-related legislative proposals before Congress and amendments made to pre-existing legislation, notably, the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), there is still much work to be done to safeguard patients against data hacking.

The Heartbleed “mishap” incited widespread privacy and identity panic, particularly from those within the healthcare sector, but also among other professionals who are now culpable for such dataleaks. It has suddenly become glaringly obvious that thousands of servers are vulnerable to attacks from outside intruders, and it’s also clear that unsophisticated Secured Sockets Layer (SSL) certificates are not as safe as experts believed.  POODLE has illustrated the dangers of misconfiguration and untrusted networks in its own way.

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The real question, then, is by what means can healthcare companies safeguard themselves against the next threat?  Some are confident that newly drafted legislation like FedRAMP will be helpful towards that end. One health IT expert was optimistic recently, saying, “Ideally, the FedRAMP regulations will adequately address common security concerns, such as multi-tenancy and shared resource pooling, and provide a standard set of regulations that would ensure secure cloud usage in the Healthcare industry.”  That would be a major step in the right direction.

Whether FedRAMP or the amendments made to HIPAA will increase patient privacy and data security remains to be seen. They may not be strong enough legislation.  Devices are emerging that have the ability to record DNA, heartbeat patterns, and a myriad of other integral and unique personal characteristics. Instead of solely responding to current issues and security breaches, startups and tech industries need to have a conversation now regarding exactly how users will be protected from technology that won’t arrive for another decade.

Rohit Sethi, vice president of security consulting firm Security Compass said, “Maybe down the road our heartbeat, for example, becomes the main way we prove our identities.  And if we didn’t protect it 10 years ago, we don’t have a way of correcting it. So we have to treat it as serious now because we can’t predict the future.”

Sethi has a point, and a frightening one at that. Sethi cites startups (responsible for creating many of the latest apps and storage systems) as a particularly worrisome area. While established companies have spent years understanding security breaches, startups are often run by young, motivated techies who are concerned about the innovation of the product first, and user security as a distant second.

Sethi predicted that, unless strong regulations are implemented and upheld, everything from medical information to our DNA fingerprints could all become subject to theft and misuse. “You can get a credit card reissued,” Sethi said, “but you can’t reset your heartbeat or your DNA.”

15 Oct 2014

Putting a Muzzle on POODLE

SafeLogic is not vulnerable to POODLEYou may have seen the news about POODLE recently.  The good news is that it’s not as severe as Heartbleed, which affected server-side SSL implementations and had repercussions across most web traffic. The bad news is that it’s still seriously nasty.

POODLE is an acronym for Padding Oracle On Downgraded Legacy Encryption and essentially allows an attacker to decrypt SSL v3.0 browser sessions. This man-in-the-middle attack has one major constraint: the attacker has to be on the same wireless network.

That renders POODLE irrelevant because everyone locks down their wireless networks, right? Oh yeah, except those customer-friendly coffee shops with public wifi. In places like Palo Alto, you can bet there is a *lot* of interesting information going over the air there. Or at conferences, where diligent employees handle pressing business and aggressive stock traders log in to their account to buy the stock of the keynote speaker (or short it if his presentation lacks luster).  The threat is real – session hijacking and identity theft are just the tip of the iceberg.

It’s worth noting that this is a protocol-specific vulnerability and not tied to vendor implementation (such as Heartbleed with OpenSSL and the default Dual_EC_DRBG fiasco with RSA). That makes it a mixed bag. The issue affects a wide variety of browsers and servers (Twitter, for example, scrambled to disable SSLv3 altogether), but users do have some control.  This is because SSLv3 can also be disabled in the client within some browser configurations, so check your current settings for vulnerability at PoodleTest.com and install any patches when available for your browser.

Some browser vendors have already made moves to patch against this threat and permanently disable SSLv3.  Meanwhile, others have dubbed server-side vulnerability “Poodlebleed” and offer a diagnostic tool to assess connectivity.

From a government and compliance perspective, Federal agencies should be using TLS 1.1 according to Special Publication 800-52 Rev 1. TLS 1.1 is not susceptible to POODLE. FIPS 140 validations and SafeLogic customers are not affected.

If you’re interested in a deep dive, I recommend this fantastic technical post by Daniel Franke, which also provides a great history of SSL and its challenges.

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6 Oct 2014

It’s Q4 Already?

It’s hard to believe we are in Q4 already. If you’re in the Bay Area, it still feels like summer!  But here we are, rapidly approaching Halloween and the holidays, watching football and playoff baseball.

I don’t really do quarterly company updates on the blog; in fact, I think Walt would argue I don’t write enough blog posts in general. But I’m just too excited. SafeLogic has had a great year and I’m really proud of the work that the team is done. A more detailed recap will happen towards the end of the year – Walt will be sure of that!

I’m on the way to Orlando now to talk at Gartner Symposium about security and compliance with Paul DePond of Globo, one of our customers in mobility. If you follow us on Twitter (and why wouldn’t you?), you’ll notice that I’ve been on the road speaking quite a bit recently. The content has been a blend of education and evangelism. I’m trying to get developers in emerging areas of technology to think about building security in to their solutions. I know it’s no easy task but I want to be sure folks are thinking about emerging threats. It’s easier with SafeLogic, but that’s another story. I want folks to understand the need for and value of strong encryption built with compliance in mind.

We have talked to customers and potential clients in some very cool new spaces, and it’s encouraging to see a more mature comprehension of the advantages offered by validated crypto.  Questions from analysts and press are becoming more sophisticated, and end users are really adapting to the landscape.  It’s gratifying to see folks genuinely care about how their data is being protected.

It’s been a very fun and very busy year… and we have some cool surprises in store, in both the short and long term. I can’t wait to share more.

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30 Sep 2014

CTIA and the Quantified Self

logo_ctiaA few weeks ago, Ray and I attended CTIA’s Super Mobility Week in Las Vegas. We won, we lost, we had some laughs, we had some drinks, he gave some talks. Overall, it was a very good trip.

The conference was huge, full of fascinating products and interesting people, and SafeLogic was proud to be a part of the Appsolutely Enterprise agenda in the MobileCON area. Ray’s keynote primer before the security panel was well received, which was very encouraging. Folks really seemed to understand why they should care about validated encryption. Between showing support for our customers on-site, meeting with potential new CryptoComply users, and evangelizing the virtues of RapidCert, we were definitely productive.

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That’s really just part of the story, however. I was in the midst of field testing the Jawbone UP24 activity tracker bracelet when I hitched a ride with Southwest to McCarran Airport. This was just a terrible idea. In general, I exercise and I sleep because I should. I took care to specifically prioritize both when I hit 30, along with a consistent emphasis on healthy, organic, often vegetarian meals. I honestly had no idea that Brussels sprouts were so tasty. But the quantified self movement has no place in Las Vegas, no matter how sleek and sexy the wristband is.

In a city where there are no clocks and you can order a Moscow Mule at anytime and anywhere, information that leads to self-examination is practically banned. Forget about processing the proper amount of guilt that normally influences whether I would have another drink, or stay out for another hour. All that goes out the window in Sin City, yielding a Jawbone activity report that looks like this:WaltJawbone

You read that right. Instead of sleeping, I was doing laps around the casino floor of the Palazzo. Remind me not to track myself again in this city.

og_apple_watchIn all seriousness, the bigger disruption to my Jawbone UP24 experiment was the announcement of the Apple Watch. It’s finally been revealed, and it’s coming soon-ish. Probably Q1 of 2015, but they weren’t very clear (not even in Mandarin). To me, it really looks like a 1.0 effort from the esteemed 1 Infinite Loop engineers – too thick, too limited in features, too gimmicky (yes, I’m talking about that extensive demo of the Astronomy mode) – but I’m optimistic for future versions and I’m looking forward to trying one out. It really needs to incorporate technology similar to what Healbe is promoting, to track true cardio activity and caloric burn.  Then I will be much more interested.

That was the real nail in the coffin for the Jawbone – thinking about everything that it doesn’t do. I must have been asked a dozen times what my heart rate was. “I have no idea,” I’d reply, before explaining that the Jawbone only tracks activity, not biometrics. Even the sleep tracker is iffy. I didn’t find the results of the in-sleep motion monitor to be particularly accurate, and it was self-reported for start and stop times. This left me with a very trendy pedometer. I downloaded an app instead and called it a day.

So the Jawbone is gone and not a moment too soon, since I’m returning to Vegas for a 22-hour bachelor party excursion this weekend. This time, I’ll be unplugged and deliberately unquantified.

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27 Aug 2014

Vegas is Scary

Vegas is scary. Well, not the city itself.  I love Las Vegas!  (And I’ll be there again soon for CTIA’s Super Mobility Week. Ping me to meet up.)  The hackers that descended upon the desert oasis for Black Hat and DEFCON are the scary ones.  Their bag of tricks, more specifically.

I was on a mission to find and pick the brains of the most interesting attendees.  I came away somewhat traumatized, since I knew just enough to be truly disturbed by how many vulnerabilities were discussed.  Here are just a few, with links to more commentary by PC Mag. Max Eddy and Fahmida Rashid both did a stellar job and should be followed on Twitter.

Nest is Cracked

Saw it, wrote about it, followed Yier Jin on Twitter (and he followed me back. Very cool.)  Bottom line – Internet of Things devices should not be a doorway into your entire home network.  Consumers should consider setting up a quarantine, at least until these manufacturers figure it out.

Side note: what the hell, Nest? You’re part of Google now. You’re commonly considered some of the best and brightest. Shouldn’t you be setting a better example for the IoT vendors to come?

Airport Security Scanners Are Vulnerable

I’m not sure this is a great classic hack, per se, but it’s definitely a candidate for the Darwin Awards.  Who are the geniuses that are hardwiring login credentials into TSA-issue airport security scanners?  And to make it better, connecting them to the public internet?  Billy Rios, director of threat intelligence at Qualys, successfully identified two such systems.  He located 6,000 connected scanners, two of which were at airports.  PC Mag reported that one has been decommissioned since.  I want to know where this last rogue system is located… and I’m considering not flying until it is removed.

Satcom Links Become Slot Machines

IOActive’s Ruben Santamarta was able to hack the satellite communications systems used in airliners, cruise ships and other remote deployments.  Again, using hardcoded credentials and backdoors, Santamarta proved that several methods of alternate communications are vulnerable.  Making matters worse, the use cases when these devices are in play are exactly the situations that you don’t want to be hacked.  If you’re hitting SOS on a plane or a boat, the last thing you want to see is a Black Hat video slot machine!

Google Glass Steals Passwords

Ok, that one looks like click bait. In a way, it is. Qinggang Yue demonstrated that an iPhone or even a traditional camcorder would still do the trick, but the popular wearable poster child is the most sneaky.  He was stealing Android users’ PIN codes at an alarming rate – even 100% of attempts from 44 meters away, albeit with a camcorder on the fourth floor of the building to achieve an advantageous angle.  The upshot? Randomized keypads can’t become ubiquitous fast enough. They will negate the advantage of most PIN-stealing techniques, including this voyeur strategy. Without a direct and clear angle, Yue’s model was built to make assumptions about the location of each button.  By randomizing the location, users will not be able to rely on muscle memory to unlock their phone, access the ATM, enter their front door, etc., but hackers will have to work much, much harder.

Photo by Ryan Clarke

Photo by Ryan Clarke

Bonus Story – The Puzzle Mastermind Behind DEFCON’s Hackable Badges

Ryan Clarke aka LostboY aka LosT has a really cool gig. Wired’s Kim Zetter has the story, and while it’s not about a vulnerability, impending danger or security, I highly recommend taking a couple minutes to read it. Clarke designs seven badge types each year: attendees (humans), goons (conference volunteers), vendors, speakers, contest leaders, the press, and the Uber badge. Players have to collect each of them to decipher part of a math-based challenge. The lanyards holding the badges also contain puzzles. This level of creativity and craftsmanship is not commonplace, and it makes you want to attend DEFCON just to get one of these sophisticated works of art. And it makes me want to watch a movie like The Game again, just to get that thrill. Well done, LostboY, well done.

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7 Aug 2014

Nest: Hacked or Just Jailbroken?

It is here, somewhere in the middle of the desert, among the inexplicably massive resort hotels that have risen from the sand over the years, that the experts have gathered.  First it‘s Black Hat, then it will be ITexpo.  Right now is the lull between the storms.
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Not much of a lull, though, to be honest.  After Yier Jin, a researcher and assistant professor at the University of Central Florida (go Knights!), blew the doors off of the poster child for the Internet of Things at Black Hat, the hype machine has grabbed hold of the discussion and we’re in full swing.
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One camp points to the discovered vulnerability in the Nest thermostat as proof positive of our future destruction.  The other takes it with a grain of salt, reassured by Nest Labs’ assertion that the unauthorized control requires physical access and should be considered a ‘jailbreak’, not a true hack.

I would fall somewhere in between the two schools of thought.  The latter doesn’t take the hack seriously enough, while the former is just a bit too convincing as Chicken Little.  But let’s take a closer look at the situation.

Sean Michael Kerner’s article at eWeek quotes Nest Labs’ statement.  “It doesn’t compromise the security of our servers or the connections to them and to the best of our knowledge, no devices have been accessed and compromised remotely.

Jin, the researcher, didn’t claim to hack Nest’s servers or control any remote devices… what he did say is that he could theoretically interfere with future firmware updates, rendering a particular thermostat helpless to potential bugs, hacks and loopholes that will doubtless be discovered later.  In addition, Jin points out that by forcing his way onto the device, he would have access to network credentials.  Now we’re talking about a clear and present threat.

So perhaps the bigger problem here is not the hack of the thermostat – it’s that the network credentials are accessible from the device.  As Seth Rosenblatt points out at CNET, Black Hat has pivoted this year to a true discussion of security, leaving the topic of privacy for another time.  Jin clearly uncovered a distinct security issue, and I’m excited to see how the industry responds.  In the meantime, we’ll see what ITexpo brings to town.
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In the immortal words of Hunter S. Thompson, “Buy the ticket, take the ride.”  IoT is here, and we are all along for the ride.  Let’s make the most of it.  Drop me a note if you’re here in Las Vegas for the conferences, I’d love to hear your opinions.

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11 Jul 2014

Glass for the Masses

google_glasssWearables and the surrounding culture are evolving to the next generation right before our very eyes and Google is firmly in the vanguard with the notorious Glass.

Just in the beginning of 2014:

– San Diego traffic court heard a case against a Glass-wearing driver

– Homeland Security interrogated Ohio man wearing Glass in a movie theater

– VSP, the #1 vision insurance provider, announced eligibility of Glass for subsidies

– Google added sunglasses and prescription frames to Glass lineup

Do you see a pattern?  I sure do.  Growing pains, and lots more to come.

Google is making a strategic effort to make Glass more accessible, but they have fallen short, yielding a not-quite positive reputation for their early adopters.  Perhaps any press is good press for Google, but I think it says something when “Glasshole” has been an entry in the Urban Dictionary for nearly a year before the device was even available for public sale.  Wearables are clearly poised for mainstream domination, but the public is just as clearly not ready to accept it yet.

The issue is a lack of hands-on experience by the masses.  As Keith Barrett pointed out in his blog, by slashing the price, Google could put the Glass into the hands of millions.  It would no longer be a novelty toy for the elite nerds who want to demonstrate their status.  The average American would become the advocate, knocking down barriers, removing stigma, and encouraging everyone to see the positive applications for the technology.  The everyman is a very powerful demographic, and it’s the only one that can combat the current notoriety of the Glass.

So let’s talk about actual, productive ways to integrate Glass into our normal lives.

Why are we not rolling out law enforcement apps for Glass that include real-time database reference for license plates and facial recognition?  That would be so much more productive than ignoring the topic until traffic cops pull over a blogger looking for publicity.

Why are we not deploying Glass in movie theaters to offer subtitles for deaf or non-English speakers?  That seems like a better option than calling in federal agents to investigate a potential bootlegger.

If we have subsidies to burn with insurance companies, why are we not developing Glass apps to help teachers in the classroom?  Imagine if a teacher could quantitatively measure the attention span of a room of first graders while engaging with them.  How about apps for health inspectors while in a commercial kitchen?  Or taxi drivers?  Or race car drivers?

The potential of Wearables, and specifically heads-up displays and augmented vision such as Glass, is vast.  I just hope that we can begin to truly embrace it as a culture soon.

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