As technology progresses, everyday appliances are being built so that they can be connected to the internet. Fridges, cars, thermostats, door locks, lights, and airplanes are just some of those things that are now connected to the world wide web so that they can be remotely monitored and controlled. But, while there are some advantages to these advances, there are critical and often unrecognized dangers.
While there is no perfection when it comes to online security systems, those built into these new “smart” devices are built with very little oversight or follow-through. Some of these new devices have ignored security completely. For those that do have a modicum of security built-in, once they are sold they are almost never updated with fixes of publicly revealed security holes. The implications can be disastrous as many of these internet connected devices are also connected to bank accounts and other private (real world and digital) spaces. These unpatched security holes allow anyone with the tools and skills to access your private data.
Data privacy breaches have become common in recent years. The hacking (by Russian interests?) of the Democratic National and Congressional Campaign Committees made recent headlines. The theft of millions in digital currencies from banks and insurance companies gets released months after the attacks. But, less reported is an increase in small scale hacks of personal devices – many of which can go undetected. Unfortunately, the public and many policy makers do not understand that, without taking issues of security more seriously, future hacks can and will be far worse.
In a recent series of posts, security expert Bruce Schneier details the important aspects of internet security that need to be understood when considering the devices we use every day. He also highlights the very real dangers to the democratic system.
Electronic voting machines that are not connected to the internet have become common in many countries, including the United States and Canada. Even without being connected to the internet, these machines have proven vulnerable to all kinds of nefarious manipulation. Many who see technology as a panacea are pushing for more of these devices and, more dangerously, the connection of the devices to the internet. Such thinking is a combination of clueless, careless, and wilful ignorance that can put the very fabric of democracy at risk.
Schneier makes an important and compelling argument for vigorous regulation and testing of technologies that play a critical role in transportation, privacy, and the democratic system. He states how important it is that voting machines not be connected to the internet and that, if they are electronic, they must have a verifiable paper trail. It is clear that the free market will not take the precautions necessary to protect the public. Only an educated government, pushed by democracy activists, have the power to regulate and establish sensible standards to ensure privacy, safety, and the integrity of the voting system (and your internet connected fridge or “smart” TV) be sustained.