This is the time of year when everyone and their dog posts their predictions for what will happen in the wacky world of tech in 2013. The reason? Nobody wants to work over the holidays, and a predictions post is one of those you can whip up ahead of time and pop in the microwave until it's time to publish. (Look for one coming from me over the next week or so.)
But I gotta hand it to the folks at cyber security firm Internet Identity. They decided to beat the rush, skip right over their 2013 predictions, and go straight to 2014.
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What's in store two years from now? Murder and mayhem -- literally, says IID president and CTO Rod Rasmussen. He says, and I'm not making this up, that in 2014 we will see the first homicides committed remotely using the Internet as the murder weapon. Per IID's release:
With nearly every device, from health care to transportation, being controlled or communicated with in some way via the Internet, IID predicts that criminals will leverage this to carry out murders. Examples include a pacemaker that can be tuned remotely, an Internet-connected car that can have its control systems altered, or an IV drip that can be shut off with a click of a mouse.
"With so many devices being Internet connected, it makes murdering people remotely relatively simple, at least from a technical perspective. That's horrifying," continued Rasmussen. "Killings can be carried out with a significantly lower chance of getting caught, much less convicted, and if human history shows us anything, if you can find a new way to kill, it will be eventually be used."
I see a new TV spinoff: "CSI: Internet." Quick, get me Brian Dennehy and Rene Russo. No, make that Shia LaBeouf and Khloe Kardashian.
To be fair, I've spoken with a number of security folks about the possibility of medical devices being turned against us, and they agree it is entirely possible. Then again, such devices have always been vulnerable to some kind of attack, says futurist Anders Sandberg, a research fellow at Oxford University's Future of Humanity Institute.
"In the good old days, the people who made these devices were just happy that they worked," he says. "They didn't think about security. The old pacemakers could be controlled by putting a magnet on someone's chest and twisting it."
The question, he says, is who would want to? OK, if you were in the same room with Dick Cheney, you might think about it. Otherwise, he says, the attacker's motives are unclear.
If a hacker discovers a vulnerability with a particular medical device that can be exploited randomly, it's theoretically possible they could use it to blackmail the manufacturer, adds Paul Kocher, CEO and chief scientist at Cryptography Research. But it's not very likely to pose a danger to patients, and the vulnerabilities probably won't be around much longer in any case.