It’s official. We’ve entered the age of the Internet of Things, an age loosely defined as many physical objects connected to the internet; devices which do this or that, but can also be used to spy on their owners.
Think of a refrigerator that tells you what to buy because you’re running low on certain refrigerated foods; or, worse, automatically orders those products for you. Already we have apps and devices which can view whoever is knocking on the front door, stream whatever is recorded on the home DVR to our iPhones or iPads, and soon there’s a good chance our toaster might be working for the CIA or NSA (or, worse, Amazon).
Smart. And Sneaky
The problem here, and it’s a growing one that won’t go away any time soon, has to do with electronics and the internet. Any device worth plugging in can be controlled by an app from a device connected to a home or office network, or the internet at large.
If hackers, government spooks, NCIS, and your daughter’s teenage boyfriend next door can hack your Windows PC, Mac, iPhone, and iPad, what chance does a digital toaster connected to the internet have?
We like to think of connected devices as being smart, but they’re only as smart as whoever programmed them, and anything connected to a network, wireless or otherwise, has the capability to be hacked. Two words: Nanny Cam (alright, maybe that’s one word– nannycam– but you get the idea). Someone, somewhere, somehow is watching us. These internet of things devices don’t even need a built-in camera or microphone to track something. Data is being collected and usually shared to someone somewhere online.
On the TV show NCIS (and others which fabricate a future for connected mankind) we see cellphones being hacked by law enforcement, government databases being hacked by law enforcement, and, near-the-crime scene video surveillance cameras being hacked in real time (usually by the so-called good guys) and performing other security misdeeds which should raise our collective temperatures into a rage of disapproval.
Think of all the devices in a modern home that are so-called smart devices which could be used for identification, surveillance, monitoring, location tracking, and targeted to gather data without those living nearby knowing what is going on. Light system, thermostats, home security systems, refrigerators, washers and dryers, countertop appliances, not to mention the various entertainment devices which already exist (smart TVs, DVRs, cable TV set top boxes, et al).
And those are just the individual attacks and tracking and targeting. What if some of those devices, once deployed by the tens of millions into households and companies all over the country, could be attacked en masse from a country that doesn’t like the low interest rate on treasury bonds? It wouldn’t just be a security breach from someone targeting you or your home, it could just as easily be nationwide attack which disables household devices by the tens of millions.
I look forward to using the smart devices that promise to improve our lives, but I worry about our ability to remain private and secure. The company that delivers such technology to my home and makes an effort to secure those devices will get me to buy. Those that don’t, won’t.
Apple? Are you listening?