Spies might use smart fridges and other internet-connected devices in the home to spy on you, US intelligence chief James Clapper has admitted.
Speaking to the US Senate on Tuesday, Clapper publicly acknowledged — for the first time, The Guardian reports — that intelligent agents might take advantage of the new possibilities presented by having computers built into ever-more home appliances.
“In the future, intelligence services might use the [internet of things] for identification, surveillance, monitoring, location tracking, and targeting for recruitment, or to gain access to networks or user credentials,” he said.
So a fridge that tells you when you’re out of milk might sound pretty cool. But spies could hack it to track your movements in your own home, or as a stepping stone for hacking into other devices on your network.
American intelligence figures have spoken about the Internet of Things’ vulnerabilities — and its opportunities for spooks — before. “‘Transformational’ is an overused word, but I do believe it properly applies to these technologies,’ then-CIA chief David Petraeus said in 2012. “Particularly to their effect on clandestine tradecraft.”
A recent study published by the Berkman Center for Internet and Society highlighted exactly this. Taking issue with frequent claims from law enforcement that evidence is “going dark” due to increasing use of encryption, it argues that increasing numbers of devices present ever-more opportunities for surveillance.
“We’re questioning whether the ‘going dark’ metaphor used by the FBI and other government officials fully describes the future of the government’s capacity to access communications,” Berkman fellow and cryptographer Bruce Schneier said. “We think it doesn’t. While it may be true that there are pockets of dimness, there other areas where communications and information are actually becoming more illuminated, opening up more vectors for surveillance.”
“Appliances and products ranging from televisions and toasters to bed sheets, light bulbs, cameras, toothbrushes, door locks, cars, watches and other wearables are being packed with sensors and wireless connectivity,” the report says. “The audio and video sensors on IoT devices will open up numerous avenues for government actors to demand access to real-time and recorded communications.”