Last week, public attention was once again drawn to one of the most secretive and controversial figures of the Russian IT industry – Eugene Kaspersky, the founder of the prominent anti-virus company. Immediately after Edward Snowden revealed that the U.S. and British security services had worked to subvert the company’s anti-virus software to track users and infiltrate networks, Kaspersky released a number of statements.
Snowden’s revelations did not shock Kaspersky: after all, he was educated at a KGB-sponsored cryptography institute and worked for Russian military intelligence. He was even accused of close ties with the FSB, the KGB’s successor. Kaspersky knows we live in a world where “everybody is watching everybody.” I suppose he expected that his business would be watched by the special services and his anti-virus products examined. He even said the attack was “just a good audit” and would stimulate the company to develop better security software.
What really worries Kaspersky is the fact that vacuum cleaners, mixers, fridges, smart TVs and even watches are now becoming dangerous. This week, speaking to journalists at a conference in St. Petersburg, he said that these devices would become a new source of cyber threats for humankind. “Everything that has an internet connection, everything that might be connected to the internet, will be hacked sooner or later,” he said.
Obviously, Kaspersky was talking about the distant future. You don’t have to look suspiciously at your vacuum cleaner every time you are using it. Not yet anyway. However, according to Kaspersky, there was a case when a whole line of Chinese irons with WiFi connections was attacked by cyber criminals. What horror this portends.
I asked Vadim Chekletsov, director at the Internet of Things (IoT) Research Center, if we should expect a “rise of the machines” sometime soon (the Internet of Things refers to a concept where a network of “things” embedded in objects can exchange data in various ways). “The threat is real,” he said. “The only thing that stops it is that the IoT is not that popular yet. As soon as consumers get a taste of the IoT and many devices are connected to the Internet, the cyberattacks will become frequent.” According to Chekletsov, mixers and irons might not be as interesting for criminals as, for example, an insulin pump with an internet connection, because in the latter case someone’s life depends on it.
Chekletsov says that a consumer boom for internet-connected devices is inevitably going to happen in 5-7 years. Now this is getting scary. I’m not sure that I want to iron any more.
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