Tue Oct 25 2016

With great devices comes great responsibility

Your fridge, light bulbs, and baby monitors are all connected to the internet. Chances are, however, that they’re also vulnerable to attack.

Remember last week when your Netflix went down, your Github account was unavailable, and — perhaps more importantly — you couldn’t tweet about any of that because Twitter was down, too? You can thank your smart home cameras for it.

These devices run software stacks similar to your computers and your smartphones, which get compromised all the time. Your smart lock is no different. It runs code, has an IP address, and in all likelihood has bugs that make it exploitable.

So even if a malicious hacker around the world has no interest in opening your garage door remotely from afar, chances are your device can be used in an attack like the DDoS last week.

Right now around the world, millions of devices are just sitting there, either hacked or ready to be hacked. Years ago, news came out that a specific model of smart TV was capturing images with its webcam without user consent and sending them to remote servers — who knows what for.

Now, your smart cameras are bringing down critical internet infrastructure.

Sadly, there is little that you — as the buyer — can do. Sure, keep your devices up to date if there’s a way to do that. And make sure your home connection is safe (firewall options in your router, strong passwords), so that connecting from the outside is not possible.

But truth be told, with the internet of things, we’re at the mercy of the manufacturers. It is up to them to write great software, keep up with the latest security exploits, and patch their devices if flaws are found.

The internet of things is both a boon and a curse. It is hard to argue against all the great things we get out of these devices. But at the same time, they’re right there running code we don’t know, packed with cameras, microphones, and other sensors we can’t control. They are online, and the internet is ultimately unsafe.

This is the internet of small, shiny, well packaged modern day trojan horses.