Bruce Schneier warns of the IoT's potential for harm

IoT warnings sound at Infosec 2017 as experts urge caution

Internationally renowned security technologist Bruce Schneier has warned of the dangers of the Internet of Things (IoT) at a keynote presentation at Infosecurity Europe 2017.

Schneier warned that AI offers both a new opportunity for cyber security defences and a new attack vector for cyber criminals, pointing out that connected devices can be preyed on by hackers.

As reported by the International Business Times, Schneier said: "The internet now senses, thinks and acts," adding: "That is the classic definition of a robot. To me, the correct way to think about the IoT, and the internet in general, is that we are building a world-sized robot without even realising it."

While the internet is a "distributed robot", IoT devices are particularly dangerous since they are "centrally controlled", he said.

He clarified: "Parts of it are controlled by different people and processors. It doesn't have a singular goal or focus or intelligence that might achieve consciousness and it's not something deliberately designed, it's an emergent property of the internet we are building."

It comes after Symantec also said at Infosec that the security industry "has failed" to raise awareness of IoT safety and urged security professionals to work with IoT manufacturers to combat this. This will enable the industry to tackle botnets and DDoS attacks too.

Last year's emergence of Mirai, a massive botnet responsible for knocking offline some of the biggest websites in the world by infecting IoT devices and using them as bots, demonstrated some of the potential for distributed attacks. Following this was the puzzling emergence of a different botnet, Hajime, which had no malicious functionality as it seemed to protect devices against infection in order to fight against the growth of Mirai.

Schneier warned against the potential threat of IoT devices last August, too, when he wrote in a Motherboard article: "We've given the internet hands and feet: the ability to directly affect the physical world."

Image source: Bigstock

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