What Happens When Everything is Connected?

In 2017, after reading Bruce Schneier’s, “Data and Goliath” I developed a mini-obsession about how the rise of the Internet, and our willingness to trade (so-called) free or low-cost services for convenience (Google, Facebook, Amazon), is creating a multitude of data privacy issues alongside challenges to social norms and societal functions. And yet, most people, at least until recently, have been largely unaware of what’s happening in the background, let alone spending time thinking about what may happen in future.

Bruce Schneier discusses some of the themes in his new book, “Click Here to Kill Everybody” in this Lawfare podcast. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Vulnerabilities will increase as more low-grade computers, without strong built-in security and no ongoing software patching processes, are increasingly added to appliances, medical devices and even t-shirts. This trend will make home/business networks less secure. (Did you hear about the Vegas casino’s network that was hacked through an Internet-connected fish tank?).

  • Consumer goods typically have longer lives than more traditional computers, which we replace relatively frequently for newer, more secure models. Subsequently, there will be insecure devices hooked up to the Internet for years.

  • The economics have to change. In other words, those actors with the ability to solve these problems (i.e. the companies that create and distribute the computers, not the consumers) need to be responsible for improving security. This requires policy change. Companies will innovate when the *right* incentives are set -- a good example is credit card and banking security whereby the onus is on the companies providing the services. Fraud prevention and alert systems have improved markedly over the years as a result.

  • The size of the challenge is colossal, but it’ not necessarily hopeless. Ironically, according to Schneier, the sheer size of the policy lift could be made lighter by everything being connected. In addition, new technology such as artificial intelligence will be part of the solution.

Rebecca Jackson