As our technology improves and horizons widen, so too do our everyday objects make progress. It’s an undisputable fact! How far back in human civilisation was a person able to unplug their book from a wall socket to charge their cigarette instead? Our lives are becoming more and more convenient every day.
Or are they? Are we really becoming smarter, better people from buying e-watches, e-toasters, e-thermostats? Or are we just trying to prove our progress as a species to ourselves by buying needlessly complicated gadgets? After all, everyone wants to live in The Future, and The Future can’t be The Future unless it looks like how it looked on The Jetsons. I’m not writing this to mock those who say humanity as a whole has improved, I agree with the sentiment; our quality of life now is as diamonds are to stones compared to ten, fifty, one hundred years back.
What concerns me is our, dare I say, reliance on gadgets that we think facilitate our daily lives. Things like fans that turn off at certain times and fridges that let you order food from them facilitate our lives the way crying in the ocean contributes to rising sea levels. The problem isn’t even that they make us lazy and apathetic, or distanced from how things were done before, the problem is that they can be extremely dangerous, and offer little to no functional pro to their perilous con.
About a month ago, Dyn Inc, a DNS provider for big names like Airbnb, Amazon, and Paypal, suffered and had to restart all of its servers because of a powerful denial-of-service attack. The Wall Street Journal, Twitter, and the Government of Sweden had to restart their websites, shutting them down for several hours. This attack, wherein a computer sends junk requests to a server with the intention to clog it up and prevent it from functioning, was done not by a group of highly sophisticated super-computers, but by a tonne of cameras and toasters.
Mirai, the malware responsible, infected the things that people never even thought of protecting.Owners of “Internet of things” objects such as smart fridges and webcams that connect to home routers usually don’t bother changing the default password, and often forget to install additional security patches after they first buy the device. This makes the CPU on a toaster the easiest access point to the rest of the home and beyond.
The biggest problem though is that there is no solution. Companies will almost never bother to write and install fortresses of code on things like smart watches because it reduces functionality and costs more with almost nothing to show for it. This means that “Internet of things” items will always be the weakest point of entry for hackers. Changing the default password and always updating patches will just breed smarter hackers. The only real resolution is to save oneself the hassle and not buy the things in the first place, which is also a very unlikely option.
All in all, if you take one thing away from this article, it’s to go update your DVR right now, and hope it isn’t already infected.