Not As Smart As They Look

Conceptual imagery illustrating cyber security and cyber attacks.
Picture Source: Getty
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    When something goes wrong with the security on a smart or networked device, it is unclear who is legally liable for damages, especially if manufacturers have failed to provide security updates. The author argues that legislators need to step in.

  • Facts


    • Recent cases have shown how easily hackers have been able to access everything from car locks to mobile phones and smart locks. Millions of consumers have been affected.
    • Many manufacturers do not provide regular security updates for their smart devices. For example, unlike many computer users, smartphone users with Android operating systems cannot even update their own devices.
    • Politicians need to explore the issue further and possibly even formulate legislation to deal with the issue of liability. The end result could involve higher prices for smart devices.
  • Audio


  • Pdf

In one case, thieves were able to open car doors, leaving no trace, because their remote control devices had a major programming defect. In another, cyber criminals were able to take control of Android smartphones, because the manufacturers didn’t solve known security deficits. And in another, so-called smart thermostats and door locks, which can be operated by an app, had their protection mechanisms circumvented by hackers without too much trouble at the Black Hat 2016 security conference.

Recent reports on cases like this paint a disturbing picture. Companies are using information technology on their products but at the same time, they are neglecting the security aspects. Millions of customers are already affected by ongoing cases but in the future it could be many, many more because, thanks to ever cheaper processors, sensors and antennae, formerly analog devices are turning digital.

And it is the customer who bears the risk: For example, when criminals take bank data and private photos from a smartphone, when smugglers steal a car or perhaps one day, when blackmailers are able to cripple a company’s production.

Politicians must do something to curb this widespread lack of due diligence.

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