The Not-So-Hidden Threats of IoT

In a Forbes article posted today, Mike Farley admits his frustration whenever his Netflix stream hiccups and he has to get up and restart his router. A fellow student recently tweeted her pain when her apartment’s WiFi was out for 12 hours. I admit I’ve been just as upset and inconvenienced when both these instances have happened to me. But vignettes like these only illustrate how problematic our dependence on, and assumption of, inter-connectivity will become for us as we continue to adapt our lives to the Internet of Things (IoT).

With our increased dependence on WiFi for a “functional” life, what happens when the WiFi fails? A major topic of Werner Herzog’s latest film, Lo and Behold, is the inevitability of a future natural disaster, specifically an enormous solar flare, wiping out our wireless connectivity. What will we do then?

Applications such as smart energy, smart health, smart farming, security, safety for seniors, and loss prevention (Tozer, Farley) offer amazing opportunities to improve quality of life, conserve energy, and increase output. If large numbers of people adopt these IoT systems into their personal and commercial lives, “business as usual” will be dependent upon the connection being sustained 24/7, especially with such serious applications as health monitors and even, as mentioned by Kate Carruthers, an IoT pacemaker.

Even if the occurrence of Doomsday solar flare is far off, there are other threats to consider. However practical and convenient the IoT might be, the security concerns are quite real, and quite serious.

Consumers are so quick to bypass user agreements without reading them – I am certainly guilty of this – and I think this means we are in for a world of trouble once people start adopting the IoT more and more into daily life. Not only will people be blindly giving companies access to their personal data; many people will continue to freely and knowingly give up privacy, if it means added convenience, or access to the latest and greatest technology. If we are so quick to relinquish our privacy, what does that mean for our future as the applications of IoT just keep growing?

Will we have any privacy left, if in fact we have any at all now? What startled me most about Daniel Tozer’s presentation on data and privacy is that “the law does not require [data controllers] to be ‘hack-proof’”; they just have to have “appropriate technical and organizational safeguards” in place. Hacking is just an expected part of our participation in digital life. That’s unsettling.

Besides the prospect of companies, the government, and other entities knowing way too much about us, there is always the possibility that information will end up in the hands of people never intended to possess it. That’s unsettling.

Humankind’s increasing comfort with, and dependence on, our gadgets has made the Internet of Things an inevitability. There are such great contributions this technology can make in today’s world. But I’m not completely comfortable with the implications if anything goes really, really wrong someday.

 

Resources/Works Cited:

Carruthers, K. (2015, June 26). Welcome to the Internet of Things, by the way privacy is dead [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.infoq.com/presentations/iot-privacy-security

Herzog, W. (Director). (2016). Lo and Behold: Reveries of a Connected World [Motion picture]. Saville Productions.

Farley, M. (2016, September 13). Why the consumer Internet of Things is stalling. Forbes. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/ciocentral/2016/09/13/why-the-consumer-internet-of-things-is-stalling/#6984be762b69

Tozer, D. Internet of Things Conference: Data & Privacy [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PtfD9zCruAM

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