The Internet of Things – What could possibly go wrong?

Well, we don’t want to worry you, but…

The Internet of Things

The Internet of Things is taking over the world.

“Wait, what is the Internet of Things?” you may well ask.

According to TechTarget “The Internet of Things (IoT) is a system of interrelated computing devices, mechanical and digital machines, objects, animals or people that are provided with unique identifiers and the ability to transfer data over a network without requiring human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction.”

Many of our digital devices have already been assimilated into the IoT movement including thermostats, lighting, smart phones, smart TVs, smart highways and automated cars.  In fact there are now over eight billion connected ‘Things’  in our our world, a number that’s set to rise to over twenty billions by the end of the decade.

The IoT is already revolutionising our lives, bringing huge benefits to the likes of healthcare, utilities and transport, among others. However, like any technological advancements, there’s been a few teething problems…

We take a look at the weird and wonderful connected ‘Things’ and what’s gone wrong so far?

The Case of the Compromised Car

Jeep CherokeePhoto©Wired

When researchers Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek declared that they could easily compromise an Internet enabled Jeep Cherokee, WIRED magazine quickly took up the challenge, and offered up their own crash test dummy in the form of security writer Andy Greenberg.

Sure enough, the professional hackers soon had the Jeep’s air-con blasting, the windscreen wipers wiping and the radio belting out random tunes.

For the grand finale they ran the Jeep off the road entirely; striking fear into the heart of car makers Chrysler, who went on to provide a patch to the 471,000 jeeps already out on the road.

(No Andy Greenberg’s were injured during the demo.)

Security Breach Barbie

Well, actually she’s called ‘Hello Barbie’, the latest model to join the likes of Malibu Barbie, Princess Barbie and…erm Pregnant Barbie.

This was Mattel’s move into the world of IoT, allowing children to chat with Barbie over a WiFi connection. Unfortunately, sales dived when independent researcher Matt Jakubowsk found multiple failings in the high-tech toy, including the chance for a hacker being able to access the child/dolls communications.

ToyTalk, the company that provided the technology for Mattel, have since patched the glitches.  

Dick Cheney’s Heart

Dick Cheney

The benefits of new technology in healthcare is without doubt incredible. However, like everything in IoT, there are drawbacks, just ask ex-Vice President of the USA, Dick Cheney.

When Cheney had a pacemaker installed in 2010, he was alarmed to find that his heart was now at risk from hackers and terrorists – not good news for one of the most reviled figures in American politics. This slight oversight was of course rectified, but the high-profile case brought to light the other dangers of internet enabled medical appliances.

Johnson & Johnson were soon having to explain why their insulin pumps could remotely administer fatal doses; while other giants of the industry addressed problems with defibrillators, monitors and other medical devices.

The Magic Bullet(s)

TrackingPoint

(Don’t worry, they’ll miss)

Of all the things that should be a part of the Internet of Things, guns wouldn’t be one of them, right? Well, say hello to the TrackingPoint TP750, the Wi-Fi-enabled rifle with a built-in computer for targeting.

It took another pair of community minded hackers named Runa Sandvik and Michael Auger to rumble the shortcomings of this disaster waiting to happen. They successfully hacked into the gun, and were able to disable it and change the direction of the bullets.

The response from the gun’s manufacturer? Well, they did say there were a few issues that needed ironing out, but went onto add “We question why a hacker with a laptop would follow around a red-blooded American carrying one of our guns.” Sigh.

Ahem…Intimate Toys

Censored

So, there is another contender for worst idea for IoT compatibility, the smartphone enabled ‘sensual lifestyle product’. Yeah, I know.

This bright idea came from manufacturer We-Vibe, who created ‘devices’ connected and controlled by the user’s smartphone. However, customers were never told that the high-tech arousers were also “collecting and recording highly intimate and sensitive data” regarding their particular preferences, including date and time of use, how long it was used for, change in vibration settings and even temperature.  

When all this came out, We-Vibe were promptly handed a class action suit, landing the wronged parties $10,000 each in compensation.

Big Brother is watching you

One of the most common fears of IoT is the amount of online cameras now available to your technically minded Peeping Tom. From webcams and Smart TVs, to entertainment systems and drones; we’ve surrounded ourselves with internet enabled, artificial eyes.

In one extreme case a hacker created a website offering live footage from over 1,000 compromised cameras from around the US. Why? Who knows?

But even more alarming was a study revealing the potential failings of over half of all baby monitors in use around the world; a huge lapse in security that potentially allowed remote access to anyone out there.

Of course it wasn’t long before one creepy hacker did manage to get into a baby montior, and used it to shout obscenities at a poor two year old.

So, what can we do?

Well, don’t panic.

The problems so far have been caused by the advancement in IoT moving faster than the individual manufactures can respond. So, while your Roomba may be compatible with the IoT, it may not feature the right standard of security software to keep you safe.

However, those driving the IoT, and the industries who have found themselves part of it, are now sat at the same table. In the coming years, we will see products designed with security features, preparing them for connectivity.

And as we become more educated about the potential risks and benefits of the IoT, we will become more accustomed to protecting these everyday appliances, in the same way that we do our computers and online services.

So please, don’t have nightmares.

 

…Of course if you’re really worried, or just want to learn more,  please contact us today.

 

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