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The Internet of Things (IoT) – the myriad of internet-connected devices such as baby monitors, smart TVs, home security systems, and even smart dolls – could prove a boon for the intelligence community and their efforts to spy and monitor people, according to the Director of US National Intelligence James Clapper. Clapper told a Senate panel that spooks could use these connected devices to increase their intelligence efforts.
“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,” Clapper said.
Clapper refrained from mentioning any specific device – but he didn’t need to. Security experts are mostly in agreements that intelligence agencies could intercept signals from pretty much any device with newly minted connectivity features, much like they do now with mobile phones.
The trouble is, millions of people are unaware of the risks these devices pose, nor even what devices are affected. Previously innocuous objects such as toothbrushes, door locks, and even bed sheets now come with internet enabled features that could be tapped in to spy on unsuspecting buyers who are mostly unaware of the possibility.
The New York Times reports that police have already approached Google to provide video footage from the home cameras that are sold as child-safety-monitoring devices. Information from Fitbit, an electronic fitness trackers, has already been used in court cases against defendants.
Unfortunately, law enforcement and intelligence agencies are not the only ones eyeing up the possibility of tapping this wealth of personal information. Many of these devices are not properly secured and provide a tempting avenue for malicious actors to gain insight into targets’ lives. Information obtained from hacked devices could (and likely will be) used to execute the most nefarious of crimes.