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When I was at school, I got suspended for hacking my school’s servers. Luckily I didn’t have malicious intentions so very little damage was done. However, as more and more devices get connected to the internet everyone is increasingly vulnerable to black-hat hackers who will have the potential to wreak havoc on society.

Internet of Things

The internet things is where everything from fridges to coffee machines has an IP address, and it’s one of the fastest growing sectors of our economy. It’s estimated that by 2019 it will more than double the size of the current market for smartphones, PCs and tablets combined.

However, every new Internet-connected device on the market opens up the opportunity for it to be hacked and currently there isn’t the framework to protect these products. Not only this but I believe that many companies – particularly the smaller ones – underestimate the threat or aren’t willing to invest the money needed to create secure systems.

When your car, your thermostat and even your security systems are online, you are increasingly vulnerable to attack. Will this lead to a new era of ransomware – having to pay to get back control of your smart home?

Countermeasures

So what more could be done to protect us from hackers?

I think that the Government should create security standards that all internet-enabled products have to comply with. The problem with this is, if done in the wrong way, it could stifle the market for the internet of things and therefore reduce incentives for innovation.

But perhaps the answer is to tackle this technology issue with another technology. Not long ago fully autonomous hacking machines were borderline science fiction, but now they’ve become a reality.


I went to Defcon hacking conference in Las Vegas and was excited to witness the first Cyber Grand Challenge. This is a competition between supercomputers to find which one was best at identifying and patching vulnerabilities, without any human input.

I was amazed that these bots managed to discover and patch heart-bleed without being told of its existence. Heart-bleed was one of the biggest and most widespread vulnerabilities in the history of the internet. When the bug was discovered it is thought that around 17% of the Internet’s secure web servers were believed to be vulnerable to the attack.

If these bots could find it, what other vulnerabilities are lurking in the internets most commonly used protocols that these bots and its predecessors may be able to find?

I think the most brilliant thing about this is the potential for these super bots to dramatically reduce the price of cybersecurity and make it affordable to even the smallest companies entering the market. Rather than employing teams of individuals to find vulnerabilities in a system and protect it from attack, the companies could buy the services of an autonomous anti-hacking machine instead. And, they would be able to stay up to date with any new threats that arise.

Where will this lead us?

Reducing the cost of cybersecurity is definitely a good thing and it will make life more difficult for malicious hackers. But, of course, there will be people – and perhaps machines – who are intent on getting around the new systems. So, who is going to win the cyber war and where will it end..?

 
If you want to read more around this topic and find out where I got some of my information from, check out –The ‘Internet of Things’ will be the world’s most massive device market


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