Tridium’s Niagara Framework: Marvel of connectivity illustrates new cyber risks

John Sublett and his colleagues had an audacious, digital-age plan. They wanted to use the Internet to enable businesses to manage any kind of electronic device, anywhere on the planet, through the computer equivalent of a universal remote control. In 1996, nothing like it had been seen before.”We said, ‘Hey, there’s this cheap network, ready to use,’ ” Sublett recalled.Their company, Richmond-based Tridium, would succeed — but with far-reaching implications for the security of the online universe known as cyberspace.Tridium’s driving technology, 4 million lines of software code called the Niagara Framework, is a marvel of innovation. With the click of a mouse, Niagara enables plant managers to view video streams, high-rise superintendents to operate air conditioners and elevators, security officials to track personnel inside U.S. military facilities, and nurses to monitor medical devices in hospitals.At least 11 million devices and machines in 52 countries, including security and surveillance systems in homes, have been linked to the Internet through Niagara, most of them in the past two years. But behind that success is a looming threat: an unknown number of Niagara-run networks are vulnerable to attacks from hackers, an examination by The Washington Post has found.

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