Experts: The future of IoT will be fascinating and also potentially catastrophic

Insecurity of IoT is a top concern

The Internet of Things is going to be inescapable, pervasive, and riddled with insecurity, but it’s at least going to be interesting, according to a raft of prominent technologists surveyed by the Pew Research Center.

Unsurprisingly, IoT security was the name of the game, the experts agreed, but it’s the effect of the present insecurity in IoT and the possible future effects that have them fascinated. The security breaches that have happened already were clearly on the minds of the respondents. Not only has IoT contributed to general online chaos via the Mirai botnet and other incidents, the trend of integrating connected devices ever more deeply into vital infrastructure reveals the potential for even more destructive attacks.

* Cory Doctorow, noted futurist and co-owner/blogger at Boing Boing, argued that governments have to do a much better job in helping the fight against IoT security breaches, whether it’s forcing companies to make security incidents public or making sure that businesses have an incentive to do security better.

“Right now, losing a credit card record costs a firm something like $0.35, plus a six-month gift certificate for a credit-monitoring service. But the data from those breaches, combined with other breach data by crooks, can be used to pull off breathtaking identity theft crimes,” Doctorow said. “If firms had to pay the entire likely lifetime losses from breaches … then no insurer would underwrite companies that were as sloppy as today’s – data collection and retention would be priced accordingly by insurers, at a much higher price than today’s.”

* Vint Cerf,father of the Internet and pioneering engineer, said that insecurity could drive users away from connected devices.

“There are many risks that reliability and safety will suffer unless the makers are diligent about protecting user interests. It could be impossible to escape increased connectivity. Look at present dependence on Google Maps or generally on mobiles and apps in the last 10 years. Reliability will be key. If such systems prove to be unreliable, people will leave in droves.”

* But Anil Dash, a technologist, advocate and current CEO of software company Fog Creek, argued that the nature of the connected world will keep people from switching off in any great numbers.

“People will continue to connect out of necessity, but the cost and severity of lapses and breaches will increase until it’s a constant, ongoing burden for all,” he said.

dana danah boyd

danah boyd

* danah boyd, social media scholar and founder of the think tank Data & Society, concurred, making the point that:

“There will be no choice. As a result, many people will just hope that the institutions around them won’t harm them, while some people will feel very acute pain because they don’t fit into the system in an acceptable way.”

All that being said, it’s still relatively early in the IoT development cycle, so some experts aren’t quite so pessimistic about the technology’s future. The present crisis in connected device security should be read as the wake-up call that sees stakeholders get a lot more serious about the issue.

* Robert Bell is the founder of the Intelligent Community Forum, a non-profit research institution. He noted that it, “unfortunately, takes a crisis to make people care.”

“I have confidence that service providers on one side and the users themselves will find solutions that strengthen security online.”

* And Dariusz Jemielniak, a Wikimedia Foundation trustee and professor at Kosminski University in Poland, said that solutions already exist to a lot of the security problems facing the IoT world today – it’s just that people and institutions don’t use them.

“Current technology already offers much higher levels of security than the market actually uses; there is a scope for radical improvement if people demand it,” he said.

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