“Why Light Bulbs May Be the Next Hacker Target” is an article published recently, 2016, in the New York Times. In this article, John Markoff warns that computer hacking is becoming more dangerous in our modernized society. This danger is increasing given our reliance on the Internet of Things. The problems, that are exponentially expanded by the Internet of Things, include the increased vulnerability that all things have to being hacked. Before the Internet of Things, a system where houses run like smart phones, city grids are operated online, and everything is cyber-secured, hackers focused primarily on computers. However, with the Internet of Things, there are opportunities for hackers to remotely invade vast networks of operations, not just for computers, but for community resources. One of these resources is lighting, for example. Recently, there has been a product released from Philips, known as the Philips Hue smart light bulb. This light bulb has proven to be susceptible to remote hacking. Philips has attempted to reroute its cyber traffic through a few cyber-obstacles in order to keep out the hackers, however, this has proven futile because Philips own inside research team has successfully hacked the smart bulb with basic street spyware equipment costing less than $300 (Markoff). Markoff predicts that because of the increased amount of internet reliance, these types of hacker activities will increase in the future.
This article takes place in San Francisco and is happening currently as of November of 2016. The major groups of involved in this article are the Philips Corporation, and the technological researchers at the Weizmann Institute of Science, and at the Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada. What has happened is that Philips, a large corporation has not been able to create a hacker-proof version of their smart light bulbs. The effects of hacking these light bulbs can include creating programs that help in greater attacks, send spam, or more concerning is that these hackers could set LED lights into strobe patterns. This lighting effect could cause epileptic seizures or simply make people feel uncomfortable (Markoff). Furthermore, Markoff admits that this sounds like a far-reaching conclusion. However, these expectations (of what hackers could pull off) have already been confirmed by researchers (Markoff).
In this article, the perspective is that of Markoff, as a citizen who may use these products. The other perspectives that are analyzed are those of the researchers, and those of Philips Corporation. The position that Markoff takes up is that he is concerned for the future welfare of our Internet of Things. He is concerned that smart homes will be able to be hacked, and that invasion of privacy will be at an all-time high once our homes are all regulated by the internet. Markoff is worried that the manner that hackers can access and manipulate concentrations of data will affect households and communities. Markoff tells us that the hackers can drive by a home, about 230 feet away, and send a remote signal that is absorbed into a system. This issue affects all our lives, because we all have private data that is stored on our smart devices, and we are all vulnerable to the invasion of these hackers. The overriding concern expressed in this article is that we are more vulnerable than ever before because of our reliance on smart devices. This problem directly affects me when I use my smartphone, or when I consider what I am transmitting through my smartphone, I become paranoid about the idea of someone hacking my information. I agree with Markoff that this issue is one that needs to be addressed. In my opinion, this issue of hacking needs to be researched and brought up to equal speed with the technology that is produced. Basically, I would say that until our technology is hack-proof, our homes probably should not be controlled with smart technology.
The biases of Markoff would be towards the researchers who are attacking Philips. Consider that Markoff states: “Philips fixed the vulnerability in a patch issued on Oct. 4 and recommended that customers install it through a smartphone application. Still, it played down the significance of the problem” [italics] (Markoff). In this statement, Markoff is critical of Philips’ fulfilment of corporate responsibility about the problem. Markoff’s statement of the problem and threat also reveals that his bias is toward the researchers: “Putting a bunch of wirelessly connected devices in one area could prove irresistible to hackers” (Markoff). Markoff is also biased against Philips as evidenced in his description of the “major bug” that the researchers found. He describes this bug as being able to “yank” installed lamps form the Philips network (Markoff). The word “yank” has negative overtones to it that lets the reader know that Markoff is not a supporter of Philips, or their testing regiment.
The larger issue that this contributes to is scary. I could see terrorist hackers killing entire power grids, and making cities vulnerable to violent attacks without power to defend themselves. Possibly, hackers could cause systems to go haywire, shutting down business operations and depleting resources. This issue of hacking now extends past computer intelligence, to the intelligence that controls all our appliances, and our home security. The threat is not contained to any specific group, because the threat will apply to all our homes. It is necessary that we all care about this issue because we all need to take actions against hacker-friendly smart devices.
- Markoff, John. “Why Light Bulbs May Be the Next Hacker Target”. The New York Times, 02 Nov. 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/ Accessed 12 Nov. 2016.