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Internet of Things: Useful, Dangerous, Interesting and Scary

28 June 2019 20:59, UTC
Internet of Things: Useful, Dangerous, Interesting and Scary
By Aleksandre B

From the narrow-minded point of view, the Internet of Things is an endless source of jokes about familiar household items, which have suddenly acquired their own mobile applications with Internet connection. From a business point of view, this is a potential source of great profits that the future market for smart devices promises. For equipment manufacturers, this is both a challenge and a driver of unprecedented growth as millions of devices as well as special technologies must be created and produced.

Enthusiasts and skeptics oppose each other, inspiring and frightening consumers with how comfortable life can become, and also with threats of computer networks clouds which surround a person and gradually gather into large storm cloud. Thinkers talk about changes in the culture and way of life of mankind with the arrival of the army continuously collecting, processing and transmitting information devices.

It seems that the Internet of Things is a topic that can not leave anyone indifferent, and if there are such people, it is obvious that they are not informed about the phenomenon, about the global changes that it brings, about its danger and its power. In this article, BNT will try to understand the technology that has become a milestone in the history of mankind, dividing the world forever into the one that was before the Internet of Things, and the one that it became after.

Will exist or already exists?

The Internet of Things is a multitude of objects of the physical world connected to the Internet and communicating without the participation of man. It is believed that now there is almost no Internet of Things — humanity still has time to prepare for the coming general distribution of smart items and think over all possible security measures, and take into account all the pros and cons.

However, reality refutes these optimistic ideas: every smartphone, smart watch, television with internet connection, speakers with intelligent advicers are items of the Internet of Things. IP cameras, energy meters, heating and ventilation devices are already working everywhere, sharing data via the Internet. Moreover, history already knows crises when the unpredictable behavior of household appliances on the Internet of Things baffled users and manufacturers.

Internet of Things Attacks

In 2016, the bot network Mirai launched a massive attack on Dyn, the company that manages DNS servers. As a result, for a long time, the Internet sites of the largest publications in the world were inaccessible. The peculiarity of this particular attack was that the network of bots consisted of hacked devices of the Internet of Things.

In the same 2016, another scandal with smart devices happened: Startup Revolv, being absorbed by Nest, did not warn the customers and stopped supporting and thus stopped the operation of their intellectual hubs designed to control the systems of “smart home” — an ordinary phenomenon, standard business process in contact with vital systems has become a shocking discovery for users.

Alexa, the intellectual system of Amazon, embedded in a variety of household appliances, continuously listens to the surrounding area, and also records and sends this data over the network. Records are listened by company employees and are used to improve the quality of service. Perhaps this is not the most pleasant surprise for many users.

07.09.2018  |   in Data security
Perhaps, humanity has not yet faced all the possible threats that the Internet of Things carries with. Stil, we can observe the consequences of the main threads: smart devices in the hands of intruders, ill-conceived organizational processes and carelessness, violation of privacy and confidentiality.So, to deny the existence of the Internet of Things is silly as it already exists, it is already around us, it already brings both benefits and harm.

Benefits

The numerous advantages of the Internet of Things are not so easy to describe, because this is, in general, the main direction of the progress of computing technology. You can notice it in the penetration of networks and smart devices, sensors and control devices into every house, city, street, road, production, farm, store. It is difficult to imagine another use of power, speed and availability of computers and networks that are already there and will be there later.

At home: very soon, the Internet of Things will become the main part of the numerous devices that control any systems that surround a person at home: lighting, heating, ventilation, water and power supply, entertainment and communication systems. The Internet of Things will create conditions in which comfort and convenience will be combined with economy and efficiency both in individual houses or apartments, and in general in buildings and complexes of buildings.

Urban economy: in this sphere the use of the Internet of Things will be similar to its activity in homes but the scale and complexity will change. Smart city systems will take the most complex areas of the economy over control, including traffic management. In the short term, the city is a vast field of activity for the Internet of Things.

Transport: roads and highways which are equipped with means of control as well as autonomous or non-autonomous moving vehicles connected to the Internet, are potentially many times more cost-effective, safe and comfortable transport systems than existing ones. Travelling and goods transportation through these roads will be faster and easier.

Medical systems and systems for the care of the sick and the elderly: monitoring of numerous parameters of vital activity, comparing them with the stored data, real-time analysis, building flexible and most effective courses of treatment, recovery, maintenance of health, the use of drugs, procedures and other methods of recovery increase the effectiveness of medical care and the quality of care for members of society who need attention and careness.

Industry and agriculture: the production sector already uses a variety of automated systems and networks of devices that receive, process signals and control technological processes. The Internet of Things will complement and increase the efficiency and quality of industrial systems. Agriculture is also a promising direction in the implementation of the Internet of Things: the means of controlling the weather, soil and plant conditions, databases and computing systems in conjunction with smart devices equipped with technical systems of harvesting, storage and processing will allow growing crops economically and efficiently.

Threats

Probably, the threats posed by the Internet of Things are typical for any new technology that is rapidly developing and so is in demand. Perhaps, the fears of those who believe that humanity is completely unprepared for the deep penetration of smart devices into everyday life are excessive and, as a result, suitable security measures will be found and rules will be developed that allow receiving only benefits, avoiding harm. But now there is nothing like that, and there are no prerequisites for improving the situation.

Hacking: Every Internet of Things device is a network entry point, a part of a large system. Systems that receive data from this device and perform some actions, run algorithms and change their state. It follows that a hacker, gaining control of only one of the devices, will gain access to the entire system. The Internet of Things is a network of a huge number of devices, which means that physical control of each of them is impossible. Consequently, the system will constantly experience hacking attempts and be at risk of unauthorized access. To assess the extent of threats, we can recall the vulnerabilities which have been found in modern processors. With the spread of the Internet of Things, the situation will worsen by as many times as the number of computers increases.

Maintaining a good technical condition: the devices sometimes break, sometimes they require adjustment, updating of internal programs, repair or replacement. In order for them to function properly, well-designed maintenance procedures are required — the Internet of Things needs organizational support. Whether manufacturers and service providers are ready for such work is a big question. Technological startups burn brightly and run out quickly, generations of computing systems replace each other, operating systems age, new frameworks appear, and each of these events causes the end of the life of entire families of devices. For the Internet of Things, such situations will cause serious vulnerabilities.

Privacy and confidentiality: throughout the history of civilization, the average person almost never had the opportunity to be alone in the field of public view, in peace and quiet. Progress brought such an opportunity in the 20th and early 21st centuries. However, the same progress very soon will take away privacy from people — the Internet of Things will perfectly cope with this task. Numerous devices connected to the network will not leave a person a chance for privacy.Experts assume that smart devices will continuously keep in sight every citizen: there is a smart home, thereis a smart building outdoors, and on the streets — a whole smart city. On the roads, at work, in the store, in institutions — the Internet of Things will be in each of the places where the person is located.

A citizen will be identified everywhere, and his actions and conversations will be recorded. Separate smart systems will sooner or later unite into one, watching us all and control everything. The phrase “being online” and the notion of “privacy” will become meaningless: everyone will always be online, no one will be able to hide anything.

Databases: data is a new oil, and the Internet of Things is an inexhaustible source of it. Devices surrounding a person already collect huge amounts of information, and in the future they will accumulate many times more. The computational and storage capacities of modern computer systems make it possible to successfully process the data and and find loads of of useful things: for commercial needs, for scientific research, for statistics, for the control of society, for exploration.

The Internet of Things databases are certainly interesting for a wide variety of outside organizations, companies and structures that will seek to access them — legal, semi-legal and illegal. With the increase in the number of databases and their volume, control will be harder to maintain, which means that there will be a temptation to exchange, trade, steal or destroy these bases.

Ecology: humanity produces a lot of garbage and pollutes the whole world around it, and various devices are a considerable and rather dangerous part of this dirty stream. The Internet of Things brings with it an army of electronic devices that will penetrate into the world around us more and more. Any device is made from plastic, metal parts and wires. Probably, to understand that the pollution will increase many times, no calculations are needed.

Standardization. This is a typical growing pain — until the flywheel of the Internet of Things is unwound, you can find rich diversity of technical solutions, protocols and standards on the market. Perhaps with a course of time and the involvement of a larger number of participants, there will be some kind of main routes that will attract all small developers and manufacturers.

It’s impossible to turn back

Meanwhile, it’s also impossible to change anything. During the entire existence of the concept of “Internet of Things”, we could often hear skeptical, warning and even panicky opinions about its future. The heads of government and intelligence agencies argue about the subversive nature of the new technology, develop regulations for keeping it in a predictable and controlled framework, hold forums, conferences and gather commissions.

However, future profits and leadership prospects in such a promising direction are forcing businesses to take new and new steps to spread the Internet of Things without thinking. It is unlikely that this process can be stopped or sent in the right direction. It can be assumed that humanity will repeatedly face crises caused by smart devices but in the end, technology will be used adequately.

Until then, we will have to endure and get used to it. We should also try not to become too addicted, to show maximum wisdom and prudence. After all, the progress that the Internet of Things now personifies is unstoppable. However, there is still one opportunity to take control over the technology: you can simply turn off the Internet.

Image courtesy of Cognixia



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