Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Toilet Hacking

The press recently caught onto the fact that real-world objects, not just computers, can be hacked.  This CNN story on the hacking demonstrations, such as hacking a fancy Japanese toilet, at Def Con and Black Hat is one example, but there are others.  Of course, your toilet can't be hacked if it doesn't have a computer in it.  I've used those fancy Japanese toilets and I find them a little scary, so I'm glad that I don't have one at home.  But this sort of hacking has been a hidden problem for a long time and I am glad that it is coming out into the open.

A lot of the recent stories have been about objects that I would call Internet of Things simply because they perform common functions but are also clearly connected to the Internet.  But a lot of things we don't think about in our daily lives are also connected to the Internet.  Many of us don't have a traditional phone line (what the Bell System used to call POTS, or Plain Old Telephone Service); we instead rely on telephones that are built on top of the Internet.  Quite a few industrial systems are now connected to the Internet.  These network connections provide useful functions but they also open up serious vulnerabilities. 
<p>So long as we understand the security implications of those systems and take care of them properly, things will continue to run along smoothly.  But with great power comes great responsibility, and as the Internet of Things grows we need to be sure to manage it responsibly.  If we don't, all those devices could start to bite us on the fanny.

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