Reading 07

Topic: Internet of Things

The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to a broad range of devices and objects which can be outfitted with electronic equipment (sensors, cameras, actuators, etc.). Some examples of IoT devices are self driving cars, smart home appliances, and electronic medical devices such as pacemakers.  There are many benefits to these kind of devices. For one, they make our lives much easier. By reducing human intervention people can live easier lives, and be more productive. This benefit could also in turn lead to economic benefits. If people can save time, they will have more time to do work or otherwise stimulate our economy.  There are also applications where IoT devices can greatly increase efficiency for companies.  For example, connecting IoT devices to valves on a oil rig would make diagnosing rig problems much easier; instead of manually checking multiple valves to find the defective one, an operator could just look on a screen and see which ones have signaled, through IoT integration, that they are faulty.  However, there are drawbacks to connecting everyday items to the global internet.  The biggest concern is hackers. Without secure encryption techniques, there is nothing stopping a hacker from connecting and manipulating an IoT device.  The potential fallout from this ranges from mild inconveniences to absolute catastrophe. For example, if a hacker were able to gain access to the safety system in a nuclear power plant, he/she could override the reactor, while at the same time disabling the alarms and notifications necessary to alert the crew of the override. There are an infinite number of examples like this, hackers could gain control of someones self-driving car, a home video system, or even an embedded medical device like a pacemaker.  With these security concerns, it is important for companies to be very cautious before designing an IoT device, and be aware of all potential consequences a breach could cause both them and their customers.  Regarding liability for such breaches, I believe that a detailed investigation of the IoT device should be performed to determine liability.  For example, if the company ordering/designing the device chooses to have low level/no security, then they should be liable for security breaches. On the other hand, if the manufacturer of the device has problems in the code/hardware that make it more susceptible to hacking, then they should be liable. As far as regulation, I do not think it would be wise to have the government regulate every single IoT device, I don’t need my tax dollars being spent making sure my IoT Keurig is un-hackable. However, for more serious devices I think there should be regulations in place, the same way the FDA makes sure we are getting safe drugs and food.  If there is potential for a device to have a significantly bad impact on someones life if hacked (self-driving cars, pacemakers, etc.) , then I think it should be regulated to ensure people who may not be as tech savvy are not getting duped by buying insecure devices.

I think the IoT could be a great thing, if done correctly.  I already stated how the time saved by implementing such devices could significantly improve the economy. By the same logic, people could also have more time to spend socializing and building relationships with friends/family, so I think the social impact of these devices would be great as well.  I would not be afraid of an IoT world because at the end of the day I am the one deciding how much IoT I am bringing into my life. If I am worried that someone may hack my automatic door locks, or gain access to a video feed within my house, I simply won’t buy those devices. At the end of the day most IoT devices are implemented for convenience, not necessity, so it is really up to the consumer how much hacking risk they are willing to accept to make their life easier.