The Dark Side of the Internet of Things
The hidden dangers of uploading our physical lives to the cloud.
A quick glance at the emerging Internet of Things reveals a promising future for the integration of technology and human life. “Wireless everything” is no longer a dream, but reality–a reality that promises to help humans accomplish increasingly more things in increasingly less time. In fact, sometimes it just seems too good to be true–perhaps, unfortunately, because it is.
Even as tech experts continue to dream up new uses for wireless technology, many are hesitant about the progressive direction. This Internet of Things, they say, ventures into uncharted territory, mixing the digital with the physical in ways that the world has never seen before. The risks are estimated, of course, but cannot be fully understood until we get there–like climbing a mountain in the dark.
So what is this “dark side” of the Internet of Things?
The primary danger associated with the Internet of Things is the issue of vulnerability. Although the science of cybersecurity has been booming in recent years, breaches are not only still common, but are growing quickly in both scale and ferocity.
Take a look at the recent hackings of heavily protected entities like Anthem, Sony, Target, JPMorgan Chase and even the United States government. Now, imagine hackings of this size that do not merely access data, but control over multitudes of automated, and often mobile, devices. It might make you think twice about connecting your car, your home or your commercial aircraft to the cloud.
Furthermore, the recent hacking of the extramarital dating site Ashley Madison shows that hackers don’t always just steal information–they can (and will) hold it for ransom. Credit cards, bank information and other personal information can be changed easily. Cars, homes, and businesses, on the other hand, cannot.
In a recent article in The Economist titled “Their Own Devices,” Graham Steel, head of Cryptosense, said, “Imagine trying to bleep open your car one day, but then you’re told that your car has been locked, and if you want back in you need to send $200 to some shady Russian email address.” The problem, according to Dr. Steel, is that so many of the firms developing apps linking devices to the Internet have little experience with the “arcane” world of cybersecurity. And for now, in this still-developing Internet of Things, they have little incentive to care.
So what can we do?
Though the risks of a physical world connected to the web can be daunting, be careful not to discount the Internet of Things so quickly. With properly configured security and monitoring, the Internet of Things remains a force with enormous potential. So what’s the key to entering the Internet of Things with confidence? Don’t try to do it yourself.
After all, remember–this isn’t designing some fancy webpage. This is mapping, constructing and operating a high-tech infrastructure of devices connected in completely new and innovative ways. We’re not simply talking about app development. We’re talking about digital pioneering. A reliable system implements end-to-end encryption and locked-down protocol firmware. Therefore, the best bet for anyone seeking to migrate to the Internet of Things is to partner with a professional, experienced team of experts. This team can then construct an infrastructure that is custom-fitted for your needs, both in functionality and security. Cutting corners is not an option in this new world.
Long story short: the Internet of Things, as invigorating as it is challenging, is certainly a mountain worth climbing. However–climbing it alone, without proper preparation, guidance or gear, is an exceptionally quick path to disaster.