Gastonia, NC Correspondent-Kellyanne Conway made news this week for her statement that our microwave ovens could be spying on us. Internet memes by the thousands sprang up, showing everything from Kellyanne herself to Chris Hansen of “To Catch A Predator” fame to the Eye of Sauron peeking out from microwaves on counters, over stoves and in cabinets.
While dear Kellyanne is quite obviously gone ‘round the bend and needs to be put somewhere with lots of soft pillows and indirect lighting, the Internet of Things (IoT) is very real and is no laughing matter. Everything you own that’s equipped with a camera, from baby monitors and security systems to laptops and smart TVs, is subject to outside manipulation and takeover. There are entire websites devoted to footage stolen from baby monitors and surveillance systems by hackers whose only intention is to create chaos and insecurity.
It’s largely a problem of technology outstripping security. We’ve built so many internet-enabled things and linked so many objects together in networks that the holes in the security fence have become far too numerous. The baby monitors, it was revealed, were produced by the millions and they all had the same internal password. Thus, once a hacker had the password for a Brand X monitor, he could take over the footage from any Brand X monitor anywhere.
Measures are being taken to fix the problem, but at the present time it’s very much a case of shutting the barn door after the horse has not only left, but moved to Chicago and opened an agriculture consulting business. Every day, thousands of bits of technology are being hooked into the web, and the current security infrastructure isn’t even close to adequate.
So what can you do? For now, I’d advise minimizing the presence of the IoT in your home. Find out the passwords for things like your TV and, especially, your wireless router, and make them secure. If you can’t, a piece of tape over the camera lenses might be the next best thing.
Owatonna, MN Correspondent-Automation by and large is a positive development in society. Anytime we can save time, money, free ourselves to do more complex tasks, and even prevent injury and death by automating dangerous jobs, it’s a win for society. But the downside is automation breeds lack of awareness and a sense of responsibility. That to me is the core challenge of finding a balance between the Internet of Things (IoT) and security.
That challenge is intensified because there always exists a small group of people or organizations who will use their superior knowledge and/or skills to tilt technology in their favor. Businesses, advertisers, criminals, and government security organizations are good examples of groups who prefer to use the IoT to gain some advantage over the public. They particularly prefer to use the IoT to access personal information that private parties did not knowingly permit to be collected.
Because we don’t know what information the IoT is collecting on us, we have compromised our security. Ninety-nine percent of the time this is not a problem because the vast majority of people are honest, innocent, and have nothing of importance to hide. We all think collecting cyber data is a good idea if it catches criminals, terrorists, and hackers because we are told by the “spies” that they only want to keep us safe by preventing crime and terrorism.
Having our data secretly collected is painless and effortless, so we figure “What’s the harm?” The harm may come when the wrong people get access to that data and use it against us for reasons we may not be aware of. We become lulled into a false sense of security because our lives go on as normal while data collection and cross-communication between computerized portions of our lives collect increasingly sophisticated data and analyze that data in ways we may never comprehend.
When that happens, we shouldn’t be surprised if our bank accounts are suddenly and instantly drained by a rogue bank employee who embezzles to pay off gambling debts. We shouldn’t be surprised when cyber terrorists gain access to the electric grid and shut down the nation for days or weeks, which would render us unable to protect ourselves from a military attack. We shouldn’t be surprised if our TVs and computer monitors have been manipulated to spy on us in our homes and use that information to blackmail us, or worse. Ultimately, we shouldn’t be surprised if the IoT becomes so massive and efficient that it renders most humans superfluous and exists only to further the greedy, self-serving interests of a handful of megalomaniacs who believe they can use technology to rule the world.
Prescott Valley, AZ Correspondent– There doesn’t appear to be the right kind of balance between the Internet of Things and security as the internet really is no longer an entity that a user automatically connects to and goes about using freely with little to no direct interference.
Today, users are being affected in all kinds of ways with numerous devices in use that can be infected through dangerous mechanisms directly related to their own computers. The internet is now about being networked and interconnected to the world. This is the Internet of Things, which has overtaken more normal internet actions.
The Internet of Things has different parts, such as data collection about people and the environment as well as smart this and that, such as heart monitors, smart thermostats, road sensors, GPS location receivers and other devices. Then there is the smart reception of data and the interpretation of it and what to do with it, which includes computer processors on various devices along with the Cloud as well as memory that stores the information. Then there are the on and off devices that affect the space a person occupies, like a smart thermostat in a home that controls the heat and air or a driverless car that collects data along a road or highway so it can steer itself safely. All of these devices are subject to some kind of interruption.
We have compromised our security for the convenience offered by “things.” Everyday computers can be easily hacked. People love their computers full of all kinds of software that offers inexpensive features, which seem to come at the expense of security and reliability, and there are consequences that go along with all of these conveniences.
When you look at the problems that occurred in October of 2016 with the denial of service attack (DDoS), which was caused by a network of computers infected with malware (botnet), you know that there is something terrible amiss. The primary source of the attack was caused by a Mirai botnet weapon. This botnet was made up of the “internet of things” (IoT) devices, such as digital cameras, webcams, and DVR players, rather than the usual botnets made up of computers.
So, all sorts of “things” are being used to compromise the security of the internet and its use. Mirai had a multitude of internet related devices to choose from to perpetrate the attack. As cyber security experts continue to maintain, there is no real approach to combat the insecurity of IoT devices and those that are perpetrating the attacks.
Who is to say what kind of overall major damage could be carried out on insecure IoT devices through domestic or foreign actors and their manipulations with cyber attacks, and what could happen with any modifications concerning future attacks, which are usually tweaked through modular software designs that can alter an attack in any direction.
There are currently no real current solutions to cyber security problems and even Rudy Giuliani, President Trump’s Cyber Security figurehead, has had little input or answers to the growing problem of cyber insecurity, and he confirmed those sentiments with what Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in his confirmation hearing, “We basically don’t have a cyber defense.”
The only present solution from the experts in cyber security is some kind of regulation, which is not a popular concept in the current political sense, but security is vital when it comes to the internet, and warding off catastrophic threats simply requires high level regulation. Experts also note that the frenzy to connect everything to the internet must be reversed. Some things just need to be left uncomputerized, and what is connected needs to be seriously scrutinized.
No one wants to see the innovative nature of the internet destroyed because of those seeking to disrupt or destroy it through device collusion that can shut down entire computerized systems. The overwhelming security concerns must take priority in order to maintain and protect the positive aspects that the internet has provided to millions. As long as computers and the connections to them saturate homes, businesses, cars, iphones and everything smart, security will have to take precedence over the internet of things.