Wednesday, March 26, 2014

An Eerie and Early Visualization of the Internet of Things (IoT)

I've got a short story to recommend to you. It's cerebral without being overly literary. It's got action, though no cyber-physical grid attacks. There's no shooting. No lives lost. No outages. But is there ever a lot going on! In fact, I'm pretty sure it's a parody of sorts of what may be coming our way in the not-very-distant future.

Titled "Water,' it was published last year by author and futurist, Ramez Naam.

Here's what the ad-free, neural-implanted main character experiences walking down a street in NYC:
Civic systems chattered away. The sidewalk slabs beneath his feet fed a steady stream of counts of passers-by, estimates of weight and height and gender, plots of probabilistic walking paths, data collected for the city planners. Embedded biosensors monitored the trees lining the street, the hydration of their soils, the condition of their limbs. Health monitors watched for runny noses, sneezing, coughing, any signs of an outbreak of disease. New York City’s nervous system kept constant vigil, keeping the city healthy, looking for ways to improve it.

And there's a nice IoT breach for you, too, with extra padding for general readers:
In a windowed office above the financial heart of Manhattan, a tiny AI woke and took stock of its surroundings. Location—check. Encrypted network traffic—check. Human present—check. Key . . . . Deep within itself, the AI found the key. Something stolen from this corporation, perhaps. An access key that would open its cryptographic security. But one with additional safeguards attached. A key that could only be used from within the secure headquarters of the corporation. And only by one of the humans approved to possess such a key. Triply redundant security. Quite wise. 
Except that now the infiltration AI was here, in this secure headquarters, carried in by one of those approved humans. Slowly, carefully, the infiltration AI crawled its tiny body up the back of the silk suit it was on, toward its collar, as close as it could come to the human’s brain without touching skin and potentially revealing itself. When it could go no farther, it reached out, fit its key into the cryptographic locks of the corporation around it, and inserted itself into the inner systems of Pura Vita enterprises, and through them, into the onboard processors of nearly a billion Pura Vita products on shelves around the world.
Cyber and physical consequences ensue and cascade. You can and should read the whole 5K word story HERE.

While I've got you in the mood, less creative but still informative is a non fiction article I found via Twitter this morning: "Internet of Things is 'Scary as Hell'".  In short-strokes, it's more "insecure by design" coming our way. And see if the expert guidance on what to do in your home doesn't faintly echo IT/OT power sector security advice:
Secure your environment. And don't have your alarm system, your heating and air conditioning system, on the same internal network as your PCs. If they are easily hacked -- and they are -- and attacked, you don't want them to be on the exact same network.
Many people seem excited about what's going to happen when everything talks with everything else. Me, I'm no luddite, but even without taking the manifold security and privacy considerations into account, I'm not sure IoT represents a step forward for our species.  Anyway, no matter, it's coming soon to a theater near you.  And maybe "Water" will be too.

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