Is Your Device A Snitch

I’m convinced that one of the biggest threat to privacy is the reliance on advertisements many industries suffer from. This reliance has lead to a proliferation of surveillance technology. And now that the so-called Internet of Things (IoT) is the new hot commodity we’re seeing surveillance technology being embedded to more everyday things. With so many devices being capable of spying on you the next big thing in advertising has become cross-device surveillance. Bruce Schneier has an excellent article that shows just how far these advertisers are trying to go:

SilverPush is an Indian startup that’s trying to figure out all the different computing devices you own. It embeds inaudible sounds into the webpages you read and the television commercials you watch. Software secretly embedded in your computers, tablets, and smartphones pick up the signals, and then use cookies to transmit that information back to SilverPush. The result is that the company can track you across your different devices. It can correlate the television commercials you watch with the web searches you make. It can link the things you do on your tablet with the things you do on your work computer.

Your computerized things are talking about you behind your back, and for the most part you can’t stop themĀ­ — or even learn what they’re saying.

Now white noise generators that broadcast on the frequencies used by this surveillance technology are suddenly good ideas for stocking stuffers. Without them your new smart fridge can display advertisements to you based on what your smart television told it you were watching.

Not only does this open the floodgates of privacy violations further but it also greatly increases the ability of malicious attackers. Ad networks have become major targets for malware distributors. This has created headaches for computer and smart phone users but now it could create headaches for your television, fridge, coffee maker, and even your damn doorbell. Making matters even worse is how unreliable IoT manufacturers are at both implementing and maintaining security. What happens when your smart fridge is considered out of date by the manufacturer and its software security problems are no longer fixed?

The reliance on advertising to fund so much technology is creating both a private and security nightmare. And it’s only getting worse.