You might want to censor your words around your home appliances: the feds say devices connected to the Internet of Things could be listening to you.
James Clapper, the U.S. intelligence chief, said in a recent meeting with the Senate Armed Services Committee that IoT could be used by intelligence services for “identification, surveillance, monitoring, location tracking, and targeting for recruitment, or to gain access to networks or user credentials.”
His comment on IoT devices is part of a broader report called “Worldwide Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community.” As per his opinion, virtual or augmented reality, and artificial intelligence should be considered as “potential global threats.”
Clapper found it concerning these devices are designed with minimal security requirements, but with ever-increasing complexity of networks at the same time. Such a combo could easily lead to “widespread vulnerabilities in civilian infrastructures and US Government systems,” as Clapper wrote in his report.
While this situation poses new challenges to cyber defenses, it also creates new and dangerous opportunities for intelligence services that have a whole new field to collect information from.
There’s no doubt that smart devices connected to IoT are definitely improving efficiency, encouraging energy conservation, and increasing user convenience. However, the trade-offs are there, and they cannot be ignored, such as the fact that fairly unregulated new systems can become a threat to data privacy and data integrity.
Clapper explained the Senate that we have no way of estimating the scope and impact of innovation and our increased reliance on technology, but the consequences will probably reveal themselves in the next few years.
Ever since Google and Apple confirmed that their mobile operating systems will be encrypted by default, a new controversy sparked: does the government still have access to the gadgets used by U.S. citizens?
According to the feds – most vocally, the FBI – the move has made it significantly more difficult for intelligence services to root out terrorists who use iOS or Android devices for their communication.
However, that might not be the case, according to a recent Harvard report. Researchers found that encryption doesn’t close the Web for investigators – on the contrary, some “pockets of dimness” are created, opening up new spying paths – such as the IoT.
Clapper’s report comes at a time when the White House has requested $19 billion for cybersecurity in President Obama’s budget proposal for FY 2017.
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