Breaking the Internet

Blame the NSA’s Internet of Things

By Mark Luedtke

 

In the year or two leading up to 9/11, anybody who paid attention realized America would soon suffer a devastating terrorist attack. Expert after expert warned us it would happen. Books were written about it. Tom Clancy’s “Debt of Honor,” which featured an airliner flown into the Capitol, came out in 1994. The chatter, so to speak, was off the charts. Yet, the rulers who claim to protect us did nothing. Then, after the attacks, they claimed ignorance. They told us nobody could have predicted 9/11, though pretty much every expert had.

Fast forward to today. “Someone is learning how to take down the Internet,” wrote Internet security guru Bruce Schneier, recently. “Over the past year or two, someone has been probing the defenses of the companies that run critical pieces of the Internet. These probes take the form of precisely calibrated attacks, designed to determine exactly how well these companies can defend themselves, and what would be required to take them down.”

The attacks being used are called distributed denial-of-service attacks (DDoS). This means numerous computers are employed at the same time to access an Internet server. The server is overwhelmed by the access requests, effectively cutting it off from the Internet.

In the old days, a hacker team had to hack thousands of computers to mount an effective DDoS. It was hard and dangerous, so the attacks were rare. But that was before the Internet of Things (IoT).

You’ve probably heard of the IoT. It’s the idiotic concept that every device in your home should be connected to the Internet. Your car, refrigerator, microwave, door locks, camera, thermostat, and even light bulbs and teakettles should all include computers with Internet access. This idea has been sold to the unwitting public as good for saving energy and giving consumers remote control over their houses.

That’s not what the IoT is about. It wasn’t dreamed up by a business to make money because turning your car and house over to hackers is a stupid idea. The NSA dreamed up the IoT, allowing it to spy on every aspect of your life. NSA wants your car connected to the Internet so it not only can track you, but it can also take control of your car whenever it wants. NSA wants your door locks to be controlled by the Internet, so it can unlock your doors when it wants. If you’re critical of the government, NSA agents can take control of every aspect of your life. They’ll get away with it by claiming they’re “fighting terrorism.”

So far, the public hasn’t caught on because they like seeing Kristen Bell talk about her refrigerator that has cameras inside.

There is no security on IoT devices by design. Slashdot explains, “The state of security around IoT, the chip or sensor-equipped devices connected to each other over the Internet, is deeply concerning. Just in the past few months, we have seen several instances of these devices getting hacked. We have also seen things such as Shodan, a search engine for the Internet of Things that can allow someone to browse vulnerable webcams. Many people continue to overlook the significance and potential consequences of their ‘smart’ devices getting compromised. Someone recently asked, ‘So what if my coffee maker gets hacked? What are criminals going to do? Burn my coffee?’ They can do a lot more than burn your coffee. You see these devices are connected to your Wi-Fi network, which gives them the ability to interact with other gadgets connected to the same network. When attackers manage to access one of these devices, it’s only a matter of time before they own your entire network.”

The NSA made it simple for hackers to take control of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of IoT computers, and that code recently went public. The result has been a series of bigger and nastier DDoS attacks.

Some might wonder why the government doesn’t do something to stop this. For the same reason it didn’t do anything to stop 9/11. Our rulers benefit from terrorist attacks. Bureaucrats get bigger budgets. The military-industrial complex gets perpetual war. Rulers and their cronies get richer.

After the coming devastating DDoS attack, the governments will take over the national internets, NSA will gain more power and money, and our rulers and their cronies will get even richer again.

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Mark Luedtke
Reach DCP freelance writer Mark Luedtke at MarkLuedtke@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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