Column: Roger's Soapbox

Interconnected Idiocy

By: | April 28, 2016 • 2 min read

Roger Crombie is a United Kingdom-based columnist for Risk & Insurance®. He can be reached at [email protected]

You gotta love this. Experts advise not to worry about computer hackers compromising your company’s data.

Instead, you should be concerned that they’re going to take over your toaster. The risk is imminent. Smart toasters, refrigerators and corporate ventilation systems are among the greatest emerging risks, it seems.

Your freezer is one quick hack away from running amok. Your alarm clock is a silent killer. Mention that to your broker, before his security people come to throw you into the street.

Household wireless networks, on the other hand, have famously weak firewalls. This is why your coffee maker is now a deadly threat.

OK, let’s calm down. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the topic. It’s the wireless network of the future that will, for example, read your refrigerator’s contents, note that you have no milk, and contact your online grocer to order a quart and its delivery.

The IoT will also check how much fuel oil is in your tank and order whatever is needed before winter sets in.

But what if Russian hackers decide it might be amusing if you instead had 8,000 gallons of milk delivered to your fuel oil tank?

Given our total submission to things Internetty, you know that critical infrastructure has been and will further be thrown onto the IoT faster than you can say, “Wait! What if …”

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The good news is that much of what has been placed online is protected. Anything can be hacked, but the important stuff is run with a suitable awareness of the risk attached, experts say.

Household wireless networks, on the other hand, have famously weak firewalls. This is why your coffee maker is now a deadly threat.

Cyber-assisted burglary might blossom, since bad guys could suck data from your heating system to tell them you’re not home, and then burgle you senseless. Remotely increasing the room temperature at a data center might eventually burn out a competitor’s servers.

This may all sound a little far-fetched, but I’m quoting (approximately) “Bloomberg,” which quoted (exactly) experts of the highest caliber. Technological systems require updating, and not even the few of us who know how to do that can be bothered. I mean, it’s a blender, right? How bad could it be if I don’t spend three hours trying to find the latest driver updates?

Hackers could send your microwave oven fallacious updates. The damn thing could spend years nuking your dinner while simultaneously serving North Korea without you even knowing.

Note to the insurance industry: Gentlemen, start your models. Hardly anyone writes stand-alone coffee maker insurance (except for extended warranties). The cyber-home opportunity is what Donald Trump would call “yuge.”

Profitability even more so, since — surely — the notion that your mom’s curling iron is working for the KGB seems unlikely, at best.

But remember this: You can’t spell idiot without IoT. &

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The R&I Editorial Team can be reached at [email protected]