Welcome to the new avatar of The Net Hail! This website was started by our mentor Oleg Toropov, to explain the newly developed (at that time Windows NT) technology, which was a big leap above the earlier Microsoft OS, Windows 98.  Over the period of the next few years, the website developed into an all encompassing technology guide that went far beyond its earlier scope and had the latest drivers, HTML Code snippets and more. Here’s how the old site looked like, for those who like a bit of nostalgia!


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RFID & Automatic Identification Technology

RFID and Automatic Identification Technology has grown a lot since it was first popularized by superstores such as Wal Mart, K-Mart and others. You can expect that this technology will develop even more with the coming Internet of Things trend, since many dumb devices can be made into some sort of a smart device, simply by adding an RFID tag.  These tags are superior to bar codes as the serial number transmitted by the tag is not easily visible to a casual observer (unlike abar code which can be easily photographed and printed). So there is a degree of protection when using such smart tags instead of the older bar codes.


Cybersecurity is a very broad term and it comprises of computer system related security, data security, as well as information security with allied things such as privacy.

Public interest in cybersecurity is on the rise, affecting most of our activities (either visibly or in an invisibly). In the past, our interactions with PCs were limited to particular working activities. Now, even during our daily commutes, in our cars we are surrounded by hundreds of computers, microcontrollers and electronics. Example-our mobile phones are next to us, and our smart watches observe and record every thing that’s happening.

Indeed, the digital revolution spreads information and communication technologies anywhere, anytime. More application fields open up more opportunities for attack, and the motivations and the possible scale of attacks change, no longer being restricted to economically motivated attacks, but also to cyber terrorism (cyber crime is also mentioned in the Keynote in this special issue). As technologies evolve, the security situation thus becomes far more complex, necessitating new enhanced cybersecurity methods and approaches.

There is the need for increased effort, covering the new fields, and addressing the new data economy that new technology such as the Internet of Things (IoT) is creating. Unprecedented amounts of data are being collected by devices, cameras, sensors, and ICT services and can be used to analyse, predict, inform and influence digital and even physical and social behaviour (just consider the increasing relevance of social networks). The protection of data is thus a paramount objective from both technical and social perspectives.  We need to empower users to define how data are collected, analysed, transferred, and aggregated and ultimately used. Privacy concerns are increasingly relevant and the relationships between surveillance and privacy should be carefully considered.

The increased networking capabilities allow the creation of systems of systems and cyber-physical systems where the digital and physical worlds meet; thus merging safety issues with security issues. Consequently, it is vital that we develop ways of addressing both safety and security in complementary ways when analysing, designing and engineering systems.  While achieving zero vulnerabilities is a holy grail in our community, their reduction should be a constant aim, which is reflected in the articles featured in this issue.

In our highly interconnected world, we require new methods and approaches to risk assessment, that can exploit data in a cooperative manner, ideally whilst preserving the privacy of prosumers (producers and consumers). Collectively sharing information and benefiting from it is an increasing trend that should be fostered by means of technical and policy means (e.g., the NIS directive).

From a technical perspective, European researchers have significant expertise in cryptography that lies at the core of many security technologies, and several articles featured in this special issue cover areas ranging from cryptography implementation to crypto techniques for data control.

Cyber crime is undoubtedly a recurrent major concern in our interconnected world, and efforts to prevent cyber crime need to be ongoing. Cyber protection is one of the mechanisms – along with the creation of frameworks that facilitate forensic activities that can involve all relevant stakeholders. The new revolution of e-currencies with their technologies as block chain will create new issues as well as new opportunities for the growth of the digital civilisation we are experiencing.

Thus, not surprisingly, this ERCIM News special issue on cybersecurity has attracted a significant number of contributions grouped within the following areas:

  • Cryptography
  • Data
  • Network
  • Systems
  • Cyber-physical systems
  • Cyber crime.

Overall these articles present a variety of research results that show the richness and range of cybersecurity issues and their application domains.  The ERCIM community and European stakeholders, including industry, are currently merging their efforts to successfully address the challenges of cybersecurity.

Internet of Things

The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to the vast world of interconnected devices with embedded sensors which are capable of providing data, and in some cases, being controlled, across the Internet. Common examples include many home automation devices, like smart thermostats and remotely controllable lighting fixtures, but there are countless others, from traffic sensors to water quality meters to smart electric grid components to tracking manufactured goods and vehicle fleets worldwide.

Because of the rapid growth in the IoT space, there are a number of competing standards, tools, projects, policies, frameworks, and organizations hoping to define how connected devices communicate in the modern era. Open source and open standards will become increasingly important to ensure that devices are able to properly interconnect, as well as for the back end of processing the enormous volumes of big data that all of these devices will generate.

How you might make use of IoT connected devices depends a bit on whether you’re more interested in collecting data or automating actions, and at what scale you are utilizing them.

For individuals, there are numerous consumer devices which work out-of-the-box. As mentioned above, many of these devices fall into the broad category of home automation. Some examples include:

Indoor and outdoor lighting and electrical outlets which can be controlled by sensors, timers, and remote applications.
Thermostats and other devices to alter your indoor climate based on knowing where you are, outside temperature conditions, and what your energy savings goals are.
Cameras, motion sensors, automatic locks, and other access control devices which can be integrated into advanced security and monitoring systems.
Water leak sensors, smoke alarms, carbon monoxide sensors, and other devices designed to protect people and property from accidental harm.
Appliances like washers, dryers, refrigerators, and more which have special functions and can alert you to their status remotely.
Electric car chargers, battery banks, and other devices which can intelligently charge at off-peak hours to save money and reduce peak energy demands.

There are other devices too, from wearable heart rate sensors to baby monitors to sleep sensors, which are designed to help you with daily tasks or help you to keep track of vital (or not-so-vital) information. Devices like automobiles are also increasingly in many ways themselves a sensor network, tracking dozens of types of information about their performance and safety, as well as providing new features and entertainment options.

For a government, company, or institution, IoT devices are a little different, and generally focus more on collecting data which can be processed and visualized, often in real-time. Some examples include:

Utility companies are able to to more accurately forecast energy and water demands, reducing waste.
Advanced environmental sensors, include water, noise, and air quality monitors, can help understand pollution sources and effects before they negatively impact ecosystem and human health.
Agencies charged with public safety can develop more advanced early warning systems for natural disasters like earthquakes and floods, and have better data with which to provide vital services like fighting fires and providing humanitarian relief.
Companies and governments can keep track of the current location of everything from vehicle fleets to parts and products, to health care specimens and medicines.
Local governments can track real-time parking, transit demand, and even know when garbage cans are reaching capacity, to better provision services and plan for the future.

Of course, there are many other examples too, and countless more are likely to be developed in coming years.
Why do open standards matter for the Internet of Things?

Without open standards and common protocols, your devices may not be able to speak to one another. While many IoT devices ultimately connect back to the Internet, the methods they use to communicate with one another and with local control hubs are often proprietary or poorly documented. Without a common foundation for communication, you may be locked to a single vendor for all of your devices, and worse, you may be left stranded with a pile of non-functional hardware if the company which makes your devices goes defunct or decides to no longer support your devices.

Organizations like the AllSeen Alliance, a project of the Linux Foundation, are working to create common frameworks for devices to be able to communicate with one another regardless of the manufacturer.
How does big data fit in?

With billions of Internet-connected devices currently in use, and tens of billions more predicted to come online in the next few years, there are enormous numbers of new sensors collecting data about the world around us, and organizations employing sensor networks need a way to process all of the new data points they are receiving and storing.

All of this data doesn’t just require a different scale of storage and processing, it requires new techniques as well. New advances in artificial intelligence, machine learning, and data mining are allowing us to find patterns in data that would not be obvious to traditional analytics methods. Open source big data tools make this analysis possible.
What about security?

Naturally, with more devices entering the home which can collect data about every facet of our lives, security and privacy are important concerns. While many privacy issues may be decided on the policy side, the underlying technology itself is an important part of security. This is one of the reasons why open source will be critical to the Internet of Things.

Every device capable of connecting to a network runs at least a primitive operating system along with the code which makes it function, and having an open source code base allows device security to be tested, inspected, and when necessary, easily patched to help keep intruders out. Secure operating system like the Linux kernel, as well as other open source operating systems, can be optimized for embedded devices to help keep data and devices safe.
How can I get started with IoT?

Getting started with creating your own devices and software for the Internet of Things is surprisingly easy. There are numerous hardware platforms targeted to beginners and hobbyists alike which have large communities behind them, including many which are partially or fully open hardware.

Some of the more popular hardware platforms for creating IoT connected devices include the Arduino, which is ideal for low-power operations and can connect via add-on boards across many common communications protocols, and the Raspberry Pi, which include an on-board Ethernet port making network communications a cinch.

Trying to decide between the two? Learn more about their differences and which one might be best for you.


Blockchain technology is touted as the next big thing, just what the doctor ordered, to tackle complex problems such as forgeries, trust in banking and legal transactions, supply chain management and a host of other seemingly intractable problems….is what the blockchain gurus shout.

Is this really the truth, or is this just hype or, something in between? Can it really solve all the world’s trust related problems? Will it make markets and traditional ecosystems such as banking, finance, insurance and legal really more sound than what it is today? We will explore all this in a series of articles. For now those new to the technology, read on below what it means, how it works. Then you can decide if it can solve all these problems.

A blockchain is nothing more than a database. The main difference between a traditional database is that the traditional ones are centralized, whereas this new one is completely (or at least to a large extent) de-centralized. What it implies is that there are multiple copies of this database in the network and all are replicas of each other. So it will be difficult, if not impossible, to fake or manipulate it, since there are a large number of copies at various places and they are being continuously being updated. To understand this in more detail, lets see how the Bitcoin blockchain operates. (Note that this was one of the first implementations of this technology and now there are multiple variations and versions of blockchain).

The Bitcoin Blockchain is a network of identical databases, each containing the same list of transactions that happened. Some principal members of the network are called validators or nodes, which circulate transaction data (payments) and block data (additions to the ledger). Each validator independently checks the payment and block data being passed around. And of course there are strict rules on how this is done.

The aim of bitcoin was to be decentralised completely without any single point of control AND also and to be anonymous. Note that all blockchain systems need to have the same mechanisms, especially if participants can be identified and trusted to behave. Bitcoin in theory allows anyone to write to its ledger (but in practice, only about 20 people/groups actually do).

Ledgers can be ‘public’ in two ways

a) Anyone, without permission granted by an authority, can write data


b) Anyone, without permission granted by an authority, can read data

Because bitcoin is designed as a ‘anyone-can-write’ blockchain, where participants aren’t vetted and can add to the ledger without needing approval, it needs ways of arbitrating discrepancies).  These create a huge cost and complexity to running this blockchain.