10 emerging threats to our privacy and security

by Peter Griffin / 15 November, 2016

Photo/Getty Images

Peter Griffin tracks down the biggest emerging threats from opaque algorithms to the internet of things.

1.INTERNET OF THINGS: By 2020, up to 30 billion devices will be connected to the internet, from your washing machine and kettle to the lock on your front door. That raises the prospect not only of your household appliances being hacked, but also of a mountain of data about your behaviour and everyday activities being amassed.

2. WEARABLES: Google Glass is dead – for now – but that’s not the case for the concept of augmented-reality glasses that overlay information on the real world and discreetly record everything you see. An Apple Watch can collect data on your heart rate and exercise, but in the coming years, everything from pacemakers to glucose monitors will go wireless, opening up the prospect of them being remotely accessed – and controlled.

3. OPAQUE ALGORITHMS: From the articles in your Facebook newsfeed to the stock picks your broker makes, algorithms increasingly make decisions for us. But there is little transparency in how they work and the information factored into their decision-making processes, which makes it hard to determine whether they serve our best interests.

4. PAYMENT SYSTEMS: The age of the mobile wallet is upon us, which means paying for things is extremely convenient, but turns the smartphone into a magnet for fraudsters eager to access your financial data and make off with your digital currency.

5. AUTOMOBILES: It will be years before driverless cars shuttle us around on our roads, but the increasingly high-tech and connected nature of car navigation, collision avoidance, security and assisted-driving systems usher in the prospect of remote hijackings.

6. INDUSTRIAL CONTROLS: Our power grid, dams, factories and transport networks are increasingly networked and automated. Remember Stuxnet, the hacking attack on an Iranian nuclear facility that damaged the plant’s centrifuges? The attackers were never identified, but it showed industrial facilities are increasingly vulnerable to attack, with potentially devastating consequences.

7. THE CLOUD: Putting swathes of data online is now dirt cheap thanks to the likes of Google and Amazon and their massive data warehouses. But putting your life in the cloud means uploading a mother lode of information about you. Expect bigger data hacks that give criminals and rogue states a more fulsome picture of your identity – and your deepest secrets.

8. ACTIVE LISTENING: Apple’s Siri started the voice-activated assistant craze. Now Amazon’s Echo and Google’s Home – devices that sit in your home, connecting your various devices and listening for your every command – could put a highly sensitive microphone in every lounge.

9. SENSORS: A new generation of low-powered, miniaturised sensors is changing how supply chains are monitored and real-time data is gathered on the environment and on our bodies. But sensor hackers are already at work, cracking security or manipulating sensors to steal data or make the sensors do their bidding.

10. PASSIVE SURVEILLANCE: Cameras that can recognise faces or licence plate numbers are already in wide use, but will take monitoring of public places to the next level as a broader range of identifiers – from smartphone IDs to social media location updates – are added to the mix.

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