Turn a smartphone into a deadly weapon? Here’s how.


Note: If you’re a paranoid about the future, here’s a happy place….Ok, now for everyone else feel free to read ahead.

For some people, technology’s impact on our future brings visions of the Jestons and for others the future is more Terminator/Matrix-like. I’d say I fall somewhere in the miiddle. 

Two articles I ran into recently gave me a realistic view on the down sides of technology. The first is this article fron the December issue of Vanity Fair “Look Out—He’s Got a Phone!“. The article outlines how during a recent conference, a security expert and researcher from a company called IOActive demonstrated a way to hack into an pacemaker with his smartphone and make the pacemaker overheat and malfunction!!

To engineers, the advantages are clear. Smartphones can relay patients’ data to hospital computers in a continuous stream. Doctors can alter treatment regimens remotely, instead of making patients come in for a visit. If something goes wrong, medical professionals can be alerted immediately and the devices can be rapidly adjusted over the air. Unfortunately, though, the disadvantages are equally obvious to people like Barnaby Jack: doctors will not be the only people dialing in. A smartphone links patients’ bodies and doctors’ computers, which in turn are connected to the Internet, which in turn is connected to any smartphone anywhere. The new devices could put the management of an individual’s internal organs, in the hands of every hacker, online scammer, and digital vandal on Earth.

Crazy stuff to consider, but does that mean we need to halt health care innovations being pioneered by folks like Rock Health?

The second article by software architect Troy Hunt, gives a great perspective on how the Internet of things opens users up to possible danger. In his post “Inviting hackers into our homes via the internet of things“, Hunt says:

Clearly these “things” have the ability to improve our lives in all sorts of wonderful ways, but frankly, that’s a bit boring. Well at least it’s boring compared to the potential for misuse. That’s the exciting frontier; it’s one thing having your passwords breached on a website, it’s quite another when bad guys are controlling physical devices in your house. Let me speculate on just where this might be leading us…

Hunt goes on to outline a litany of possibilities of how the connected devices which made big news at the CES show last week could be turned against it’s users. It’s a good read for optimists like myself to ground us in the alternative uses our new shiny objects.

My view is that technocal like other innovations – e.g. the printing press, steam engine, and even fire – has a greater possibility to change our life for the better. But in the wrong hands, these same innovations can create a volatile society. Does that mean we should err on the side of innovatiors or laggards? Do we prevent harm by keeping things the way they are?

I watched the 1st episode of Downton Abbey (yes, I’m late), a British period drama set in the early 1900s. In one of the scenes, Lord Grantham walks into a room. His elderly mother Countess Violet Crawley turns to talk to him and immediately holds a black hand fan to her face, blocking the light from the indoor bulbs. When asked about her getting some electricity in her own house someday, Countess Crawley says “I couldn’t have electricity in the house. I couldn’t sleep a wink. All those vapours seeping about.” I laughed and scoffed at how ridiculous she sounded. Then I thought about it a bit. Would I have been the same way? Would you?


2 thoughts on “Turn a smartphone into a deadly weapon? Here’s how.

  1. Geekyard

    We live in an "Non Safe" Technology world. The cyber war would be more worst than a bio war in this era.There are so many options and hacking apps & Linux Os that can be installed in Smart phones.

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