Wednesday, December 16, 2015 [Tweets] [Favorites]

Lightbulb DRM

Tim Cushing (via Seven Swans-a-Sarah):

The world of connected devices is upon us and things have never been better. Criminals can access your email account by breaking into your fridge. Your child’s toys and your television record your conversations and send them to manufacturers’ servers, where criminals are (again) able to access them. Your home thermostat goes HAL 9000 and attempts to set your house on fire. And, now, your lightbulbs won’t do the one thing you expect them to do: produce light.

Purchasers of the Philips Hue “smart” ambient lighting system are finding out that the new firmware pushed out by the manufacturer has cut off access to previously-supported lightbulbs.

See also: Hacker News, MacRumors.

8 Comments

Phillips actually did a complete back down overnight.

But this is still the future. I eagerly look forward to the day when Smart Refrigerators refuse to cool any food items not sold by their "affiliated" partners. I give it 18 months...

All platforms should demand a 30% cut of everything used on that platform. It's #disruptive #innovation that benefits the consumer through, well, I'm still working that part out.

I predict a bright future for tinned foods and oil lamps...

"I predict a bright future for tinned foods and oil lamps..."

Those are both great consumer products. But obviously the best thing to do is put a chip in it.

My grandmother had two (or was it three?) old oil lamps on her bookshelf; sounds like I may regret that I took only one of them when we cleaned out the house…

And that's one of the reasons why I think that basic computer literacy and even basic programming skills, including knowledge of crypto topics, is no longer optional if you want to remain a functioning, productive member of society. Code — including faulty code — rules our lives more than our country's laws do, and this will only become more extreme as more and more devices turn into tiny computers.

"And that's one of the reasons why I think that basic computer literacy and even basic programming skills, including knowledge of crypto topics, is no longer optional if you want to remain a functioning, productive member of society"

Well, I've got nothing against everyone learning to code. But frankly, I don't see how that helps folks in an IoT / DRM world. Just because you can code, it doesn't mean you can really deal with your insecure / malicious / personal data spewing "smart" oil lamp that has a chip in it. It doesn't mean you can fix your own tractor that is covered by DRM. It doesn't help you work around your "smart" lighting hub suddenly disabling all your 3rd party bulbs.

Basic compute literacy might be more to the point, but even that gives you a very limited leg up. All that really means is that you learn that you should avoid the oil lamp with a chip in it, and buy a no longer manufactured olde fashioned 'dumb' oil lamp on eBay...

(For example, I'm computer literate enough to have known to never hook my "smart" TV up to my LAN.)

@Chucky: True, knowing how such stuff works won't let you fix it. But at least it gives you the insight to know when you're being sold a pup*.

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* Caveat the entire "Learn to Code" movement is itself a prime example of this.

I think there are two aspects here. One of them is that knowing how these things work actually *does* teach you how to fix things. The example you give is perfect: don't hook your TV to your LAN. But what if you do want to connect it to the Internet in a secure fashion? Knowing how networks work helps.

The other aspect is that you can't even have a valid opinion about these topics if you don't know anything about code, cryptography, etc. You can't decide which products to buy, and which to avoid. You can't decide which voting machines are secure, and which are not. You can't decide which politicians to vote for (because they understand how technology works), and which not to vote for.

Being a productive member of a free-market democracy means that you should have at least a basic capacity to make intelligent purchasing and voting decisions. We now live in a society where this is, in many ways, no longer possible if you don't understand how computers work.

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