The Internet of Watchful Things

So right now the United States security services are beginning to realize the potential of the Internet of Things.  The Internet of Things refers to a sort of techno-utopian vision of computer chips being cheap enough to put into everything, adding new features and convenience to everything from light-switches to toothbrushes.

For some reason this is supposed to be a good thing.  I mostly imagine the acts of violence that would result when my light-switch takes three minutes to boot up and then refuses to work until I install a ‘critical update’.

It should surprise nobody that various security services are already gleefully eyeing the internet-enabled, sensor-studded objects of the future, as reported in multiple outlets.  Merely watching emails is so last century; with the internet of things they look forward to watching their targets’ every moment, gleaning pictures from webcams, fingerprints from biometric security features, and whatever else they might want.

Of course they can do this because putting electronics in everything requires those electronics to be very cheap, and security is overhead that makes sales more difficult, especially in the early-adopter phase.

Here’s a forecast of how this is going to play out.  The security services are going to become accustomed to what they get from badly secured devices.  Then, there will be some headline hacks, where thousands to hundreds of thousands of people have their personal lives splattered across the internet via internet-enabled webcam-equipped cell-phone chargers.  Then, there will be a big push to improve the security of the Internet of Things, possibly helped along with a few lawsuits and irate, probably technologically illiterate politicians.  At this point, the FBI, CIA, and NSA will proceed to panic about criminals ‘going dark‘ and do their utmost to block the progress toward security (while claiming they really do care about personal security).

I can’t help but think we can all avoid this if we just realize the Internet of Things is mostly pretty dumb.

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