As we approach the much ballyhooed era of the so-called ‘internet of things‘ where pretty much all our devices will be connected to the internet and thus remotely accessible and controllable, on the surface this looks great. But the catch is that this also allows hackers to access them and that can be problematic.
I doubt that hackers will bother to randomly turn on our toasters or change the thermostat settings in our houses or turn the lights on and off. Such things might provide an increase in beliefs about ghosts and poltergeists but provide little benefit to the hackers. But some things could be really dangerous. For example, as self-driving cars enter the market, we need to worry about the possibility that a third party can gain access to the car’s controls and take it where we don’t want it to go.
Even with current cars, it appears that because these car’s computers do not contain a firewall between the parts that run the car with the parts that run the communication and entertainment systems that are connected to the internet, hackers can use that gateway to take control the car away from the driver. Wired reported on the frightening experiment it conducted with remote hijackers commandeering a car.
As another example, e-readers and online streaming of films enable providers to closely monitor usage. Consider the experiment by Kindle Unlimited to allow readers to download as many books as they want but charge people only for the number of pages they actually read with part of the proceeds going to the authors of the works at $0.005 per page. So the more pages of an author’s work that are read, the more they get paid. This seems like a fair way of compensating writers. But enterprising hackers found that they could write software that produce fake 3,000-page books filled with nonsense and then jump to the end of it, giving the illusion that all the pages had been read, immediately generating $15 for the ‘author’.
This is why it is so hard to have nice things. You have to combat all those people who are trying to abuse and exploit the system, and putting in place countermeasures immediately makes them harder to attain and drives the costs up.