The future is already here. A mischievous hacker group was recently caught using a refrigerator to send malicious email spam. The concept is mind-boggling to most people on many levels: first, that your refrigerator could send an email; second, that someone could “hack” your freezer; and, last, that your cooler could even have a Wi-Fi connection. Your kitchen isn’t a Starbucks.
However, a new, groundbreaking report from Pew Research Center and Elon University says this all-connected world is where we are headed fast. By 2025, according to the study, most of our devices will be communicating with people and, more important, with each other through online connections. It is called the Internet of Things, and it is already raising concerns around security, privacy and an increasing gulf between society’s haves and have-nots.
“I would describe the Internet of Things as devices or objects that connect to the Internet — and each other,” said Samuel Greengard, author of the upcoming book “The Internet of Things.” “The IoT typically involves three [possible] types of interactions: machine to machine, human to machine, and machine to smartphone or mobile device.”
Dan, a 38-year-old from San Diego, said he is excited about the health benefits … but not much else.
“I’d love a device letting me know if my blood pressure is too high versus getting the info at a checkup six or 12 months later,” he said.
But when pressed about the device potentially giving his doctor a heads-up over a wireless connection, Dan said the independent communication aspect is what bothers him.
“In the wake of the NSA issue, we’re realizing that Internet searches, online posts and other data can be used against you,” he said.
When it comes to the Internet of Things, Dan’s biggest concern is the lack of security for all the data being shared between devices.
“The security is atrocious,” he said, “and it will probably be ridiculous for a while, like worrying if your toaster is going to get a virus or start listening to your conversations.”
Rainie said Dan’s tongue-in-cheek description isn’t too far from what experts warn in the report.
“You read these answers [in the report],” he said, “and get an inescapable feeling the experts expect an arms race between the good guys and the bad guys over who gets to control the Internet of Things and how vulnerable its systems will be.”