CRF Blog

The Internet of Things Connectivity Binge: What Are the Implications?

by Bill Hayes

In a new report, the Pew Research Center looks at The Internet of Things Connectivity Binge: What Are the Implications? The report covers seven main themes.

Today, 49% of the world’s population is connected online and an estimated 8.4 billion connected things are in use worldwide.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is in full flower. The expanding collection of connected things goes mostly unnoticed by the public – sensors, actuators and other items completing tasks behind the scenes in day-to-day operations of businesses and government, most of them abetted by machine-to-machine “computiction” – that is, artificial-intelligence-enhanced communication. The most public items in the burgeoning IoT are cars, voice-activated assistants, appliances and other home systems, physician-prescribed or recommended health-monitoring devices, road sensors, public-safety and security devices, smart meters and personal fitness and health trackers for people and animals – dogs, cats, horses, cows and more. And then there are emerging IoT products that show how the urge to create connectivity extends to such prosaic items as toothbrushes, dental floss, hairbrushes, pillows, egg trays, wine bottle sleeves, baby monitors and changing tables, silverware, umbrellas, all manner of toys and sporting goods and remote-controlled pet food dispensers, to name a few.

The very connectedness of the IoT leaves it open to security and safety vulnerabilities. Every connected thing is susceptible to attack or misuse. In September 2016 at DEF CON, one of the world’s largest security conferences, 47 vulnerabilities affecting 23 IoT-enabled items (door locks, wheelchairs, thermostats and more) from 21 manufacturers were disclosed. Soon after, there was a massive distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack on Oct. 21, 2016, against Dyn, an internet performance management company. The attack was accomplished when tens of millions of IoT-connected devices like printers, DVRs, cable set-top boxes, webcams and baby monitors were used to launch the DDoS and block Dyn’s ability to connect internet users to the web addresses they hoped to access, such as Twitter, Amazon, PayPal, Spotify, Netflix, HBO, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. A simple software program called Mirai was used to create the botnet that initiated the attack. [more]

Seven major themes on the future of the Internet of Things and connected life