IOT: Internet of Trouble

As I dabble in electronic gadgetry, owing to my professional occupation, I frequently am made aware of the so called Internet of Things. In this universe, gadgets of every imaginable purpose are designed so as to be accessible and controllable through the Internet. Just add the appropriate interface and the code to match and Voila, you can turn on your oven from half a world away, from the moon even, should you ever get there.

Why is this so wonderful? Certainly it satisfies the curious and the tinkerers. There is a comical scene in a Big Bang Theory episode when the boys, true geeks that they are, make it possible to control their lights in this way, not to mention the RC cars similarly enabled. In their case, nothing untoward occurs, but it ought to be recognized that much mischief might result.

What provokes this line of thinking is an article on the Weekly Standard website discussing how Internet connected driver-less cars might be turned into WMDs. The thrust of the article is to insist that more must be done for cyber security but never asks the question as to why they should be connected at all. One troubling possibility is that the desire to inform the rider that there are three coffee shops nearby or the nearest McD is just 1.5 miles away overrides the obvious potential for disaster.

On a larger scale, occasional mention is made that there just might be cyber attacks on the power grid. Our entire power generating capacity is Internet connected, but why should we give access in any form to hostile actors. Really, does anyone ~anyone~ in Kazakhstan need to know what PG&E or Southern Cal Edison are doing? And worse, should it be possible for them under any circumstances to be able to control any element of that or defense systems or anything?

Perhaps we need to step back and address the wisdom of the IOT concept. There is little benefit to be had from connecting a myriad of devices that heretofore were working just fine thank you without remote control. It might just be time to start disconnecting things from the Internet. Do we really need our lawnmower ~or the neighborhood nuclear reactor~ to be at the mercy of someone in say, Tehran?

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