The Internet of Things
Over the next few years, you are going to increasingly hear about the Internet of Things (IoT). In short, it refers to the computerization of the physical objects that compose our world. Ever more, if a device can have an embedded, networked computer inside of it, it will.
Who here uses PPTP? Stop doing that. Who here uses IPSEC, with a pre-shared key? Stop doing that, too. Raise your hand if you use SSH. Guess what? The NSA claims to have databases for decryption of and attack orchestration for PPTP and IPSEC, but also for SSL and TLS, and for SSH.
From what I can see, all of this is going to happen within the context of everything being broken. From a security perspective, our technological world is a clusterfuck of epic proportions, and now, this mess is going to be expanded to encompass more of the physical world.
Companies that were once content with tracking our online behavior, analyzing our communications, and observing our social interactions are going to start collecting more intimate data from the variety of devices we are going to place around ourselves, on ourselves, and even within ourselves.
Will this data be transmitted and stored in a secure fashion? Will our privacy be preserved? Which government agencies are going to get their hands on our information? How long until you are reading about how your favorite provider of the week was the victim of a nasty hack?
I've noticed a really interesting discussion point, which is that what people used to call liberty and freedom, we now call privacy, and we say, in the same breath, that privacy is dead. This is something that really concerns me about my generation, especially when we talk about how we're not surprised by anything.
I think that we should consider that when we lose privacy, we lose agency. We lose liberty, itself, because we no longer feel free to express what we think.
Take a moment to think about this. I know there are many people out there that will shrug their shoulders and keep on doing business as usual. I think this is unwise and is most likely the result of a poor imagination and a gross under-appreciation of long-term consequences.
However, there is an increasing portion of the population that is concerned, and for those people, I will continue to try and find ways to advise navigating the New World.
There are a handful of networked devices I require to do my job and be a participant in the modern world. Outside of that, an Adama approach seems prudent.
Except for the computers I need in my life, I want my technology to be as dumb as possible. Once a device is networked, all bets are off.
Does your refrigerator, stove, or automobile really need a networked computer inside of it? Do you really want a dedicated, networked device with a microphone always listening for your commands inside your home?
Are you confident that these devices will perform as advertised and that a third party will not be able to compromise them? These are questions people need to ask before they immerse themselves in the IoT.
Our technology should be under our control and exist to empower us, to improve the quality of our lives. If you do not know how your technology works, if you are not allowed to take it apart, repair it, modify it, and re-service it for your needs, then it is most certainly not serving your interests.
Being able to negotiate this New World with require a degree of sophistication. People will need to step up their game and be willing to forgo some convenience for privacy and security, and I hope that I can do my part in making that an easier transition.
There are several projects I am tracking with great interest, but until I see significant improvements in their reliability and efficiency, I may not return to this topic for some time. For further discussion of these issues, please refer to these past posts:
- The Surveillance Machine: Citizenfour
- Apple, Google, and Surveillance In a Post-Snowden World
- The Answer
- The Other Future
- Rage, Hope, Freedom
- Open Source, Hope, and the Surveillance State
Also, this piece by Dan Gillmor is important to consider, moving forward: