I warned that hooking everything up to Internet was a bad idea years ago. Your TV can now watch you! Too bad you can’t break for commercial every 10 minutes like your TV does. Here is another article on the subject.
This is what people can do with the new smart TV you are buying for Christmas. I shudder to think what can be done to medical devices that talk over wireless networks. I am not sure what can be done about the problem. People love the convenience of controlling their home’s thermostat or security system remotely, from the Internet. And the bad guys love the ease of convenience, too. The “Internet of things” security is a hot growing research area so we will be reading a lot more about the problem.
to publish or not to publish
Often, I am confronted by people about publishing vulnerabilities. “Why would you bring this to the attention of the hackers?”, they would say. The truth is, if someone like me can find the problem, then any reasonably intelligent and curious person can also find the problem. It is very likely, that there are others who are aware of the vulnerabilities and this would include the hacker community. More of our appliances contain computer chips that run light-weight versions of the Linux operating system and open source software. Anybody can get access to the source code, and all code contain bugs and vulnerabilities. It doesn’t matter who wrote the software, or how smart they are, mistakes get made, and others will find those mistakes and exploit them if they can.
Other scientific professions have suffered from similar dilemmas. Physicists working on the Manhattan project, for example, often had to come to terms with the prospects of advancing human knowledge and having that knowledge lead to human destruction. Wasn’t there a story somewhere about Buddhist priest who once said: “The good news is: all humans possess the keys to heaven. The bad news: that same keys also opens the gates of hell.”?
I believe it is better to publish the technical vulnerabilities; to be aware of them so that many bright minds can come together and fix the problems. And it helps alert the defenders to look out for them. I remember watching the “Super Friends” as a kid. On one episode, Robin was complaining about the inherent dangers of scientific discoveries and how easy it can be for people like Lex Luthor to use them for evil. Batman replied: “… Technology is neither good or evil. It is the mind behind it that determines its use.”
And they say Batman has no real super powers. He has a super intellect. I know. It’s not as sexy as having a chest you can bounce bullets off of. Or a new smart TV that you can hook directly up to the Internet.