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Who needs an Internet-connected fridge?


As more and more cars become network-connected, they will also become vulnerable to hackers who could take enough control to do everything but steer. (Stock image)

To an FCW article outlining future cyber risks in household appliances and vehicles, a reader responded:

The potential for harm in the "internet of things" is real. However, it is a choice. Unlike the rules and laws of physics which govern air, land, sea and space, the cyber arena is defined by rules we CHOOSE to implement. So we are hung by our own petard if we complain that the gains from interconnecting things are balanced by the vulnerability we introduce to our systems. There are real and tangible effects that can be perpetrated through cyber means far beyond the investment needed to make them. So what are we choosing to connect and why? The headlong rush to connect everything seems devoid of the questioning and deliberateness of the most important word...WHY?

Frank Konkel responds: I don’t need a refrigerator to send a text to my mobile device alerting me that I’m out of milk or that I’m not maximizing my available shelf space. “Hey Frank, pick up some eggs and orange juice,” is just not something I think I need to be told by anything that isn’t, you know, alive.

But in our increasingly connected society, it appears many people – perhaps unaware of the threats such connectedness entails – clamor for such things. Major companies would not mass-produce Internet-connected ovens, microwaves or vehicles if they didn’t know that people want them. They don’t waste their time and money making things nobody buys. What concerns cybersecurity experts the most about the boom of Internet-connected devices isn’t just their lack of security, it’s that many of these devices will be connected to the Internet for their lifecycles without security updates.

One cyber-security expert told me that companies aren’t likely to address security updates on devices that don’t have graphical user interfaces. Modern cars will get updates, but how many of your coffee makers and ovens will?

If they don't, then to update your device’s security settings, you’re going to have to dedicate the time to find out how to do it on your own, and there may not be a simple walkthrough. With your own computer, it’s worth it to spend time updating your software because you really need your computer and it’s not hard to do it, but it’s easy to see most people not spending the time to update their microwaves or coffee makers. Even if they are vulnerable to attack, they’ll keep on working, right?

It seems like a recipe for disaster for me, and personally, I’ll be making sure to avoid Internet-connected everything in my apartment or home. Like you, I don’t need it, and I don’t think the juice is worth the cyber-squeeze, either.

Posted by Frank Konkel on Jun 17, 2013 at 3:41 PM

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