Wired Imagines Our Dystopian Connected Home Future

Over at Wired.com, the ever-provocative Matt Honan has a great little thought exercise on the “nightmare” that could come from connected home technology gone wrong. His piece, The Nightmare on Connected Home Street, is a first person narrative of a man who wakes up to discover he’s transformed into a cockroach  inhabiting a virus infected home.

Distorted blue video screens showing the face of a baby

“Technically it’s malware. But there’s no patch yet, and pretty much everyone’s got it. Homes up and down the block are lit up, even at this early hour. Thankfully this one is fairly benign. It sets off the alarm with music I blacklisted decades ago on Pandora. It takes a picture of me as I get out of the shower every morning and uploads it to Facebook. No big deal.”

The story goes on to chronicle some of the other dystopian features of connected home malware – the hacked “Dropcam Total Home Immersion” account that was hacked (“so, I’m basically embarrassment-proof,” Honan quips) to Wat3ryWorm – “the one with the 0-day that set off everyone’s sprinkler systems on Christmas morning.”

Though a fictional account, Honan’s writing from experience. He gained notoriety in 2012 after writing in Wired about the serial hacks of his Google account, AppleID and Twitter accounts by hackers who summarily deleted most of his digital life. Honan has since written about the ineffectual protection afforded by traditional, alphanumeric passwords.

Honan’s flight of fancy -set at a point in the near future – is worth reading because it picks up on some of the likely pain points in our heedless march forward into ever-more connected homes and workplaces.

In addition to the obvious – malicious code infections that deny you basic creature comforts, like a good night’s sleep – Honan anticipates what is likely to be a chaotic and troublesome operating environment, as large technology firms vie to “own” the home OS.

“When I moved into my house in the 20s, I went with an Android-compatible system because there were more accessories and they were better designed,” Honan writes. “But then I changed jobs and now my home doesn’t work with my company-issued phone.”

“I’d just reinstall the OS, but that would be too expensive. Besides, all my Nexus Home® stuff uses proprietary chargers, and I can’t deal with having Amazon drones come in and rip out the drywall again.”

The solution, Honan imagines, will be a retreat to analog technologies that just work: from an “old fashioned” teapot to good old metal keys for the locks.

That would be funny – if it weren’t so close to the truth. Security researchers from the firm IOActive wrote about the discovery of a wide range of security holes in home automation technology from the firm Belkin that could allow attackers to gain remote access to cameras, lights and other Internet connected conveniences.

As for the ‘back to analog’ meme – look no further than PF Chang’s decision this week to revert to manual card swipe technology to replace electronic card readers, following a breach of that company’s card payment system.

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