Thursday, February 07, 2013

The Internet of Everything

So it's here, at least the press reports it is, the Internet of Everything.  What does this mean?  In a nutshell it means your home and everything in it are connected (and accessible) from the public Internet.  What could possibly go wrong?  For those following along at home, you can insert sarcasm here.

Here's a scenario in the near future.  It's a Tuesday in July in Houston and that means it is hot outside.  People go to work as normal and as part of their routine set the thermostat in their house to 78 °F.  Around 9 AM that day, a group of script-kiddies unleash a piece of malware onto the public Internet that targets a popular home thermostat.  So instead of 78 °F this piece of code instructs the device to lower the temperature of the house to 55 °F.  People come home from work and the first thing they notice is how cold it is in the house.  They think to themselves, how could I forget to set the thermostat but give it no more thought.  Over the next few days as people talk to each other they find out that others had the same thing happen.  "Hey Tom, remember that thermostat you recommended, it did the weirdest thing the other day."  People begin to realize that others had the same thing happen to them.  News organization get a hold of the story and report the matter.  An inquiry into the matter by public & private cyber security investigators reveals that a group of hackers compromised these popular home thermostat devices.  Now for the good part, people begin to receive their electric bill and they find it much higher because of that one day.  People go to the politicians and tell them they won't pay their electric bill because they were hacked.  But the truth is that for that day, that customer did use the extra electricity and so the utility company tells them they must pay or they'll be cut off.  There are more complaints to local & national politicians but what can they do?  During that day the extra electricity was used so whose responsibility is it?  Just as people must protect their home computer networks, now they have to worry about a cyber attack against other parts of their house?

This is a simple (and somewhat benign) example of a vulnerability in a small part of the Internet of Everything.  What happens when larger, more expensive happenings occur?  It would seem to me that good public policy dictates that before the Internet of Everything because the norm, we as a society should have answers to these kinds of questions BEFORE they come up.  "...of course, that's just my opinion. I could be wrong" - Dennis Miller.


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