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Staying safe in an Internet of Things world

LinkedIn logo LinkedIn 4/11/2017 Greg Leffler

In my news video this week, I discuss two situations that should worry you about the future of connected devices: A remotely-exploitable Smart TV hack and an IoT garage-door opener maker escalating a petty disagreement into a full-blown war and practically locking someone out of their garage. 

Check out the video above.

The solution I mention at the end of the video is this: We can’t continue to rely on the makers of IoT devices to actually secure them properly or to adequately maintain a long-term web service, and we certainly shouldn’t expect them to operate a web service forever for free. That said, today, if the maker of your device decides to stop operating their web service, your device’s functionality ranges from “local control only” to “paperweight,” so it’s definitely worth thinking about.

The only way that we can trust our IoT devices to a) not spy on us, b) be usable as long as we’d like them to be, and c) make sure they can’t be disabled by petty tyrants is for 1) us, as individual users, to operate our own ‘cloud’ infrastructure (probably CoAP-based), and 2) make manufacturers make devices that can hook into that. (Of course, IoT device manufacturers would be free to offer their own hosted version of the service — but they shouldn’t be able to bind you to using their version.)

Setting a standard for how in-home devices talk to external control servers (and yes, there need to be external control servers – until IPv6 is magically adopted by everyone, it’s the only reliable way for devices behind consumer NAT and firewalls to be reachable by the outside world) and holding manufacturer feet to the fire to have every IoT use that standard is the only way to make sure that we know what the devices in our homes are doing, and to make sure that they’ll be usable by us as long as we’d like to, and not merely as long as the latest Silicon Valley unicorn still has its wings.

Greg Leffler is the senior editor for Software Engineering and Technology at LinkedIn.

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