The pace of personal security continues to accelerate. First, we spent years learning how to secure our routers and Macs. Then we focused on our iPhone security and got that pretty much under control. Now, a new wave of home automation devices is poised to enter our residence, and they're not made by Apple. Danger is lurking once again.
The modern customer who surfs on top of the blue waters of the Internet generally has no idea of what's going on under the water. The enormous layers of complexity and software abstraction mean that we can no longer understand what's going on under the hood ouf our devices with the time we have available for study. There are sharks near the surface of those waters.
What that means is that 1) All devices tend to look and operate alike because the market leader is copied 2) The various settings and preferences presented to us are a mere shadow of the complex technology underneath and 3) In their rush to compete in the consumer market, excruciating, expertise-based attention to security detail is unprofitable. As a result, we have to place a lot of trust in the companies we buy Internet enabled products from.
We have a natural human tendency, a weakness, to think that incursions will leave telltale signs. But they don't. Our Internet devices just sit there quietly and look like they're doing nothing when, in fact, a lot is going on underneath the hood. That deception leads to complacence.
There was a time, not long ago, when the only device the family had on the Internet was perhaps a family Mac or PC and maybe a PowerBook belonging to a student in the family. Today is different. Recently, I had to upgrade to a new router because the number of devices in my house with IP addresses had gone into the range of 30. When we had guests at Christmas, they couldn't get on the Internet with their iPads. We had to shut stuff down.
Things are about to get dramatically worse for all of us. In a few short years, with home automation on the upswing, it wouldn't be crazy to think about several hundred devices in the home with IP addresses. And everyone of these devices is a potential target or entry point into the privacy and security of the household.
In the past, as I recall, household electrical devices were certified by Underwriters Lab. There was a "UL" label on the power cord that affirmed that the devices met electrical safety standards and could be used with confidence. It would be nice if we had something similar for Internet devices we install in our home. But this time the certification would be for a high level of consumer security. But I don't see it coming.
Meanwhile, it's the wild, wild west, and it's a free for all. Never has it been wiser for the consumer to be beware of the vulnerabilities of the devices they buy. This week's tech news debris is 100 percent devoted articles which address all that.
Next: the tech news debris for the week of Aug 11. VNC free-for-all, badly designed firmware, tricking the smartphone's gyroscope into being a listening device, and whether Apple can once again save us from The Internet of (insecure) Things.