The Internet of Things Means Not Owning Your Devices

Every consumer product can be made better by connecting it to the Internet, right? If you prefer licensing your products instead of owning them then that may be the case. However, if you’re like me and believe that you should own the products you buy, then that may not be the best idea.

A poor schmuck purchased an Internet connected garage door opener then later ran afoul with the company’s support has learned a valuable lesson about the difference between licensing and ownership:

Denis Grisak, the man behind the Internet-connected garage opener Garadget, is having a very bad week. Grisak and his Colorado-based company SoftComplex launched Garadget, a device built using Wi-Fi-based cloud connectivity from Particle, on Indiegogo earlier this year, hitting 209 percent of his launch goal in February. But this week, his response to an unhappy customer has gotten Garadget a totally different sort of attention.

On April 1, a customer who purchased Garadget on Amazon using the name R. Martin reported problems with the iPhone application that controls Garadget.


Grisak then responded by bricking Martin’s product remotely, posting on the support forum:

The abusive language here and in your negative Amazon review, submitted minutes after experiencing a technical difficulty, only demonstrates your poor impulse control. I’m happy to provide the technical support to the customers on my Saturday night but I’m not going to tolerate any tantrums.

At this time your only option is return Garadget to Amazon for refund. Your unit ID 2f0036… will be denied server connection.

Welcome to the Internet of Things where any device can be remotely bricked by an angry service provider!

When it comes to Internet connected devices I ask two questions. First, is the device being provided by a company that has a good security track record? Second, what benefits would I derive from connecting that device to the Internet?

The first question is important to ask about any device that will be connected to the Internet because you don’t want your Internet connected coffee pot to become part of a botnet or act as a gateway for a malicious actor to access your network. While the second question is subjective, I believe it’s important to consider. Why, for example, would I want my garage door opener to connect to the Internet? I only want the garage door to open when I’m entering or leaving the garage. For me, there is no value in being able to open my garage door while I’m sitting at work. Furthermore, having to unlock my phone and open an app takes longer than pressing a button on a remote control attached to my vehicle’s visor. So an Internet connected garage door ends up being less convenient for me than a regular one. Answering the second question just saved me a potential security vulnerability in my network and the possibility of having my device bricked by a pissy provider (not to mention it probably saved me some money).