The Internet Of Things – What Could Go Wrong?
There are so many papers on how the IoT, a network of physical objects that interact with each other and the environment around them, is changing the world, that another “praising” article would be just a waste of time. However, today’s notes are not touching on the greatness of the IoT, but on its dark side, or the likelihood of it.
The Internet Of Things – More Than Things
The narrative with the IoT is simple: If put to good use, the IoT becomes the fabric that sustains the digital world of tomorrow. In the wrong hands…well, let’s see what it could happen.
If you have watched “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly,” you already know the story of three men, of three different tempers, involved in a long battle to find a fortune in gold. In the movie, the good, the bad, the ugly, each one of them has a portion of the puzzle leading to the location of the gold.
And just like in the movie, there are three key puzzles, or possibilities, interconnected (like it or not), and each one of them with its own ending.
The Internet Of Things – The Good
Let’s start with a few practical examples, of what the “good” IoT means: Imagine running late to a business meeting but not being aware of the problem. With the help of the IoT network of smart sensors, your car anticipates and resolves the issue in advance.
In permanent sync with you, your calendar, and the connected objects in your home, the car parked outside is aware of your status, location, and surroundings at all times. Almost like a family member, your car knows if you had your coffee, hit the bathroom or if you are still in bed.
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The car syncs with your wearables (fitness trackers, smartwatches, smart labels), with smart sensors across the city such as traffic lights, roads, buildings, people wearing smart clothes and accessories, and even other cars. The data received back allows the car to calculate, with accuracy, how late you are going to be and if needed, send a message to the person you are supposed to meet, with the arrival time and an apology.
Let’s look at another scenario, where your fitness tracker, or a smart sensor in your bed, knows when you are awake in the morning and sends a signal to your coffee machine to prepare your daily espresso shot, just as you like.
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Alternatively, imagine working in an office where the peripherals know when supplies are running low and order cartridges and paper without human interaction.
So here we are, after breaking my promise that this is not another IoT praising paper, and a few examples later, it is evident that the Internet of things has the potential of becoming a game-changer in all aspects of our lives.
Sadly, not everything is pink with the IoT and severe points remain to be addressed. Security is the most obvious one as the internet of things could become the next playing field for malware, extortion, and general chaos.
The Internet Of Things – The Bad
The user generated data is valuable not only to the insurance, healthcare and marketing companies but also to the governments, law enforcement agencies, and all the parties involved in the security game, be that national or international.
Your digital footprints are already mined, aggregated, and analysed to predict your presence, intent, sentiment, and behaviour, quite for some time now.
Back in the mid-2000s, Narus Semantic traffic analysers were able to process ten gigabytes of IP packets, emails and web traffic, per second. What started as the “human profiling project” in 2000, it is nowadays called the “mass surveillance program.”
NSA in the U.S. or, the GCHQ in the U.K. with their Oakstar, Stormbrew, Prism, Tempora programs, these agencies have always been at the top of their game, always ahead, with new ways of monitor us and the IoT adds to your browsing and social media trails detailed geo, ambient, and most importantly biometric data, such as fingerprints and iris scans for example.
I shall mine all your personal data and gain deep insights into your private lives. Using algorithms, machine learning and so forth.
— Sir Bonar Neville-K (@sirbonar) August 4, 2016
More than that, by 2020, as the cryptocurrencies slowly replace the existing payment methods, new laws will be pushed, demanding the registration of all digital currency owners, in a global, compulsory database.
In the wrong hands, the IoT becomes the missing puzzle piece in the creation of a digital persona. The ultimate tool in a mass surveillance type of society.
The Internet Of Things – The Ugly
Is there anything worse than living in a “big brother” kind of society? Well, yes. Going bankrupt, homeless, jobless, losing your family and your life. Without sounding too pessimistic, bigger risks are lying ahead of us, spreading from the virtual realm to the physical one. Allow me to explain.
If the IoT’s adoption continues to grow with at least the same speed witnessed over the last few months, we will not have time to keep up and secure. The IoT is plagued with inherited flaws from the post-PC era. The IoT is more than connected vacuum cleaners, coffee machine and light bulbs.
The IoT, together with IIoT (Industrial IoT) forms the IoE which encompasses industrial tools, heavy machines, jet engines, drills, transportation systems, oil rigs, hospitals, financial systems humans, and even warfare tools sentry guns.
If not secured, “the ugly” times commence with cryptocurrency attacks, growing from isolated Bitcoin strikes, exploiting computers and digital wallets via basic vulnerabilities, to global hits, targeting exchanges and national reserves.
IoT disaster stories, involving driverless cars, aeroplanes, drones, hospitals, power grids, nuclear factories, water plants, ventilation systems, even traffic lights and elevators become daily headlines.
For the first time in our digital history, the IoT bestow the cyber criminals with unprecedented powers of altering, not only the digital but also the physical world. Traditional attacks against computers, information and data, become the cyberattacks of tomorrow, against steel, concrete, and human flesh.
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Through IoT, new waves of cyberattacks are taking the threats, hacks and embarrassments, from the personal to the global level, chaos ensues, and millions die. And yes, maybe these scenarios overhype the idea of mass destruction, but in reality, there is no way you can deny the risks.