Trust is vital for the internet of things age – but is it too easily given?

From burning phones, to botnets built of insecure internet of things devices, the last couple of months have been a real challenge for tech. But are we still too trusting?

I was listening to a podcast this morning that pointed out that the Mac startup chime – gone from the latest MacBook Pros – was a much more common sound many years back, when rebooting your Mac multiple times a day was a common activity. It’s funny how quickly we forget. I can’t remember the last time I restarted my phone, other than to apply a software update. And I’m fairly sure my Mac at home only gets rebooted during updates.

Trust in computing devices is growing, and it will need to grow if things like the Internet of Things are to take off. Rebooting your lightbulbs or kettles would not be a step forward in technology.

It’s unsettling then, to see Samsung – one of the biggest phone manufacturers in the world – having some serious problems. Just in case you’ve managed to miss the news, the Galaxy Note 7 has been catching fire, leading first to an exchange programme, and then a complete recall of the device.

That’s bad news for the company – which did not handle the situation well. And, at the very least, it will erode trust in their brand.

At least it should.

Burn, baby, burn – phone inferno

But, bafflingly, some people are proving reluctant to return their phones. Samsung is dealing with this by pushing software updates that remind users to return the phone, but the New Zealand carriers are going one step further:

All of the country’s wireless carriers will block the discontinued smartphone on their networks as of November 18th. Essentially, they’re turning the Note 7 into a paperweight. You can use it on WiFi, but it won’t be very useful as, well, a phone. New Zealand is expected to rely on the same IMEI (hardware identifier) blocking that telecoms use to render stolen phones useless, so you’d have to jump through hoops to have any hope of restoring cellular functionality.

Estimates put the number of devices still in use in the country in the low hundreds, but this desire to carry on using device that has proved dangerous is worrisome.

Perhaps we’ve had a taste on that in the recent DDoS attack that brought down parts of the internet’s domain systems, rendering many major sites inaccessible a few weeks ago. That was driven out of a botnet built of internet of things devices with default admin passwords.

The combination of lax security standards from manufacturers, and a laissez-faire attitude to safety from consumers is a potential breeding ground for some serious security issues in the future.

Andy Watkins