Rundles wrap up: My cyber trash trove

Scary side of Tech

I have always been simultaneously awed and petrified by technology. But “advancements” of late scare the bejeebers out of me. Sometimes I feel like that guy in a stupid television advertisement who goes “off the grid!” Nowhere seems safe anymore. 

For instance, it’s comforting to know that while I’m driving a car, should something happen, I am protected by multiple airbags. Or at least it was comforting. Now it looks like perhaps as many as 30 percent of automobile airbags – on all sorts of vehicles, from pedestrian to luxury – are not only defective, but potentially deadly.

Then there was the announcement in May that telecommunications giant AT&T, which is buying DirecTV for $48.5 billion, is planning to use its multiple platforms, wireless and wired, to reach into people’s lives in unprecedented ways. This is way beyond smart phones and smart TVs and myriad screens to feed entertainment frenzies. Now, using devices, people can lock and unlock their homes, turn lights in their homes on and off, check security cameras, and they are even talking about putting sensors on water pipes to detect leaks, and garbage cans to alert for fullness. Really? My garbage can is going cyber!?! Yeah, I know, there are some practical applications, like city garbage crews will do the monitoring and adjust their pick-up schedules on-the-fly, but c’mon; what is wrong with just Thursdays?

And what is even more troubling about the AT&T plans is the expectation that an enormous amount of the existing and technology-to-come has to do with automobiles. As an auto reviewer, I drive a ton of new cars, and the technology built in and accessible through smart-phone app hook-ups is truly astonishing. I can check sports scores, the weather, the stock market, tap into music, have all of my contacts in my car so I can interact (text and voice), and one of the pushes is to get more video content into cars – the back seat only, alledgedly, but it doesn’t take a genius to get that content on a smart phone screen right on the front-seat console. Companies are doing this in the hopes of getting people to buy even more monthly subscriptions so they can generate more revenue; I get that. But nowhere in the announcement was anything about driving safety. Will my airbags maim me when I crash while distracted by the latest chapter of “The Avengers”? 

What’s also on my technological mind these days are loyalty cards … from my supermarket, hardware, drug store, clothing shop, etc. The come-on is discounts and personal specials. But they all send me emails and texts, and they know about everything I buy, how often, and when the bananas I bought will spoil and the minute I should replenish the supply.

My whole life is laid bare.

And I see stories in the news all the time about how hackers – and they are legion – can somehow tap into your car’s controls and mess with the wipers and the radio and, of course, if they want, get all of your contacts and perhaps even credit card numbers and passwords. And while they’re at it, they can hack your home. It apparently isn’t difficult. Heck, a security researcher from Denver reported in May that he hacked into an aircraft computer system through the airline entertainment system and made the plane move. Now, it seems, you don’t have to be a pilot to deliberately crash a jetliner; just a geek on a mission.

There’s an old aphorism that states that “One’s man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” Today’s trash is made up of cyber data, and it appears to be disturbingly easy to tap into, monitor, manipulate, and not only for profit or mischief, but disaster as well.

If my new garbage can comes with an A.I. chip, I will seriously consider going off the grid. Perhaps I can find a YouTube video to help me figure out how to do that. Just for grins I’ll watch it in my car. While driving

Categories: Magazine Articles, Tech