SOME LITTLE time ago, the F.B.I issued an urgent warning : Everyone with home Internet routers should reboot to shed them of malware from "foreign cyber-actors".

Putting aside the strangeness that for once power-cycling a device could perform an effective exorcism upon it, the episode reveals more than just the potential for disruption of Internet access for people using-

Equipment they never expect to have to physically manage.

It also underscores how unprepared we are to mange down-stream-networked devices and appliances - the " Internet of Things "  - that are vulnerable tot attack.

A longstanding ethos of Internet development lets anyone build and share new codes and services, with consequences to be dealt with later. I call this the "procrastination principle," and I don't regret supporting it.

But it's hard to feel the same way about the Internet of Things.

Worries about security for these devices have become widespread, and they fall roughly into two categories.

FIRST, compromised networked things can endanger their users. In 2015, Chrysler recalled 1.4  million vehicles after researchers showed they could hack a jeep and disable its brakes and transmission.

Coffee makers and other appliances with heating elements could have safety features overriden, starting a fire.

And an alert was issued on certain pacemakers last year after vulnerabilities were found that could allow attackers to gain unauthorized access and issue commands to the devices.

SECOND, hacking even a tiny subset of the 10 billion and counting networked things can produce threats larger any one consumer.  Individually these devices may be too small to care about; together they become too big to fail.

Security Systems in a  city could be made to sound an alarm simultaneously.

Light bulbs can be organized into bot armies, directed to harm any other  internet-connected target.   And worse than a single Jeep  executing an unexpected sharp left turn in a whole fleet of them doing so.

Short of  rejecting  internet integration with appliances, dealing with this is not easy. As with home routers, we tend to keep  appliances around for years, so vulnerabilities aren't phased out quickly.

The Honor and Serving of the latest Global Operational Research on Internet of Things  continues. The World Students Society thanks Professor Jonathan Zittrain / International Law and  Computer Science at  Harvard.


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