Protecting the internet of things
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We as a society are more intertwined and interconnected with our electronic devices than ever before. Today, everything from light bulbs to coffee makers have remote access. With the download of a new app or the touch of a screen, we can turn on our lights, check the thermostat, or start our cars from around the corner or across the globe. This network of devices and the remarkable innovation they have spurred is known as the Internet of Things (IoT). 

Advances in the IoT allows everyday objects to send and receive data. For example, have you ever been in the grocery store and realized you forgot to check if you have milk, butter, or eggs?  With the IoT, that’s not a problem anymore. You would simply be able to open an app on your smartphone and look at cameras showing the inside of your refrigerator. You will never be caught wishing you would have checked your fridge before heading to the grocery store again. 

The possibilities of IoT are seemingly endless as virtually every industry has found implications and uses for the technology.  The Mercatus Center at George Mason University even noted that the economic benefits of this technology could be in the trillions of dollars. 

While IoT is exciting and will change and enhance our daily lives tremendously, this new wave of interconnected devices also brings new concerns about the security of the devices and the very real threats of exploitation by bad actors. It’s a reality now that a stranger could watch a baby’s every move by hacking a baby monitor or someone could see your personal information by hacking into an exercise monitor worn daily like a Fitbit. 

Just this year we saw an unprecedented large-scale attack on everyday devices. Dyn, a large domain name provider, found themselves under an attack affecting a wide range of major companies ranging from Twitter to Spotify to Netflix and more.  This attack leveraged thousands of connected devices like baby monitors, security cameras, and DVRs in a coordinated effort that overwhelmed Dyn’s capability to respond and continue providing services.  

This attack is exceedingly concerning because it used our own devices that we utilize every day against us. Hundreds of thousands of interconnected devices, from thermostats to home routers, were easily hacked and used in this attack.

We now collect more information than ever before without proper safety protocols in place. That is why consumers, tech companies, and the United States Congress have made it a priority to ensure user protections are implemented as IoT innovation grows. 

Earlier this year, I joined a bipartisan majority in the United States House of Representatives to pass legislation introduced by Rep. Leonard Lance from New Jersey to help map out a national strategy for IoT. Our goal is to bolster the growth of IoT while working with industry to maximize opportunities both in the commercial market as well as in government uses while increasing security. 

The recent attack on Dyn and its reverberating effects on the Internet are representative of the challenges we face going forward.  With estimates ranging from 20 billion to nearly 200 billion for the number of connected devices to be in use over the next decade, one thing is for sure – Congress, industry, and consumers must work together to carefully craft policy on this new and relatively untouched issue and I look forward to continuing this mission. Together, we can chart a path to success to provide exciting new technology while ensuring users are protected.  

Congressman Earl L. “Buddy” Carter represents the First District of Georgia in the United States House of Representatives.  

The views expressed by authors are their own and not the views of The Hill.