Could IoT Security Breaches Change History?

Although many of the risks may be overhyped, cybercriminals could spark monumental change by attacking security targets related to the Internet of Things.

Brian Buntz

August 30, 2016

4 Min Read
IoT security may be winning a lot of repetitive-sounding media attention, but the risks are real.
iStock / cosmin4000

Sadly, in our digital world, threats seem to come out of the ether. It’s not hard to imagine cars and planes crashing as a result of a cyber attack. Or hackers bringing down a network of power plants. Or a global adversary influencing U.S. elections by hacking voting machines. “The next president will probably be forced to deal with a large-scale internet disaster that kills multiple people,” says Bruce Schneier, a security technologist in a Motherboard article.

Such IoT doomsday scenarios not only grab attention, they can actually happen. They are even likely, say some security experts.

Hackers Rigging Elections 

Hackers who breached the Democratic National Committee in July showed the world that hacking a U.S. election is now possible. A recent survey from Tripwire found that 60 percent of security professionals believe that cyber criminals are influencing the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.

“Election security is critical, and a cyberattack by foreign actors on our elections systems could compromise the integrity of our voting process,” a member of the Senate Homeland Security Committee wrote in a letter recently.

After Bush v. Gore in 2000, electronic voting machines were seen as a more-accurate alternative to older technologies. That’s because nearly two million paper ballots were disqualified in Florida because they caused errors when inserted into vote-counting machines.

You have to understand the fact that we are not going to win. 

A Princeton grad student, for instance, broke into a voting machine dubbed Sequoia AVC Advantage in seven seconds, Politico reported. Princeton professor Andrew Appel co-authored a research paper in 2008 that found that the AVC Advantage machine could be easily breached with viruses that can cause inaccurate tallies of votes.

The FBI recently announced it had uncovered evidence that hackers had broken into election databases in Arizona and Illinois, taking personal data from up to 200,000 people in Illinois. ABC News reported that the FBI has warned all states to improve the security of online voting systems.  

IoT-Fueled Cyberwarfare and Other Risks

A cyberwarfare arms race has been going on behind the scenes. The uncovering of the Stuxnet virus, purportedly developed with the support of the NSA, showed that advanced malware existed in 2010 and that spy agencies could destroy Iran’s nuclear centrifuges.

According to a 2013 article in Der Spiegel—roughly the German equivalent to Time magazine—NSA is looking to move beyond mass surveillance with hopes of developing cyberweapons that can target infrastructure, including power plants, water supplies, factories, airports, and banks.

Related: Select the Most Vulnerable Security Targets

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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, 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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