5 of the Creepiest Uses of IoT

For all its potential, many people are still scared of the Internet of Things. Here are 5 reasons why.

Brian Buntz

September 20, 2016

4 Min Read

New software features tend to outpace new security features.

Maybe that’s just to be expected in our capitalistic tech culture. But the current state of IoT security and data privacy protections could also be bad for business. Earlier this year, four out of ten industry and government professionals reported that privacy and security concerns were their main things holding them back from embracing IoT technology.

Related: The 10 Most Vulnerable IoT Security Targets

Here, we round up five examples of the types of problems that are stoking those fears:

1. Webcam Spying

Spying on marijuana plantations, restaurants, and baby monitors is all in a day’s work for two controversial websites sites. The two sites—nown as shodan.io and insecam.com—work like IoT search engines, grabbing information on insecure video cameras around the globe. They also can pinpoint the GPS location of the cameras they detect. Shodan.io also includes information on a range of devices including traffic lights and industrial control systems while insecam.com bills itself as having the largest collection of online surveillance footage.

2. Using IoT for Murder

Law enforcement agency Europol made a splash in 2014 when it observed that the risk of IoT-enabled murder was growing. The organization observed that it is possible for would-be killers to track their victims using connected devices. It is not clear how many such homicides have occurred. But it is theoretically possible for would-be murderers to kill via hacking. In 2007, for instance, Dick Cheney had the wireless functionality on his pacemaker turned off for fear that a hacker could attack the device. Earlier this year, Techinsider wrote a mostly tongue-in-check summary describing how IoT device malfunctions could prove fatal. While the data on IoT-fueled murders may be scant, there are already cases of suspected murders using GPS technology to track victims. Back in 2012, a North Carolina man allegedly used a GPS tracker to track down his ex-wife’s lover and shoot him.

3. Hacked Baggage Scanners

It’s possible for a criminal to smuggle weapons or other onto a plane by hacking baggage scanners, according to Wired. Software on the systems known as Threat Image Projection ordinarily enables supervisors to superimpose images of banned items into x-rays to test operators. But that same function could be used to project images of harmless items over weapons.  

4. Corporations and Big Brother Listening to Your Conversations

What if your smart TV listened to everything you said in your living room? While that might sound far-fetched, Samsung had a privacy policy in place in early 2015 that warned users to “be aware that if your spoken words include personal or other sensitive information, that information will be among the data captured and transmitted to a third party through your use of Voice Recognition.” While the company would later cut that clause out of the document,

Those who opt to use voice-recognition technology may be throwing out any reasonable expectation of privacy. In the not-too-distant-future, law enforcement and divorce attorneys could subpoena tech companies for voice records by the likes of Amazon Alexa or Apple’s Siri. “We are finding that evidence from voice technology can be quite valuable if the information leads to some kind of tracking mechanism that places a spouse at a different location than they might have claimed,” Joslin Davis, president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers told USA Today earlier this year.

5. Your Car Could Be Watching How You Drive

In 2014, Ford exec Jim Farley declared: “we know everyone who breaks the law,” referring to the automaker’s ability to use GPS to track drivers who speed. Although he would later retract his remark, car makers know much more about the drivers of the latest vehicles. New cars can track how often a car idles and where the driver travels. Some cars can even track whether the driver prefers to listen to CDs or MP3s.

Bonus. Your Boss Watching (Nearly) Everything You Do

A new employee badge can track everything from how often you talk to how you deal with stress, according to the Washington Post. The badge from a company named Humanyze uses microphones and sensors to track employees throughout the day—although the beacons shut themselves off when employees enter the bathroom.  

About the Author(s)

Brian Buntz

Brian is a veteran journalist with more than ten years’ experience covering an array of technologies including the Internet of Things, 3-D printing, and cybersecurity. Before coming to Penton and later Informa, he served as the editor-in-chief of UBM’s Qmed where he overhauled the brand’s news coverage and helped to grow the site’s traffic volume dramatically. He had previously held managing editor roles on the company’s medical device technology publications including European Medical Device Technology (EMDT) and Medical Device & Diagnostics Industry (MD+DI), and had served as editor-in-chief of Medical Product Manufacturing News (MPMN).

At UBM, Brian also worked closely with the company’s events group on speaker selection and direction and played an important role in cementing famed futurist Ray Kurzweil as a keynote speaker at the 2016 Medical Design & Manufacturing West event in Anaheim. An article of his was also prominently on kurzweilai.net, a website dedicated to Kurzweil’s ideas.

Multilingual, Brian has an M.A. degree in German from the University of Oklahoma.

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