IoT National Security Issues

By on February 16th, 2018 in Blog Post, Privacy & Security

Clearly the Internet of Things (IoT) is becoming pervasive. Devices like Alexa and your cell phone are fairly obvious IoT devices. Not so clear are your car or your fitness tracker. Most of these devices know where you are, and can report this to “the mother ship.” Which leads to IoT national security issues when this reporting reveals information about troop movements and locations.

The specific problem identified in that New York Times article is the connection of Fitbit devices to social media sites (Strava in this case) that map your activity. The sense of competing with others, or at least getting the online site recognition for your fitness activities, can encourage better exercise discipline. However, personnel at presumably secret bases become visible on the global mapping with a “why is there a lot of exercise going on at that point in the desert?” analysis. Also the patrol activities can show up, exposing the participants to a higher risk of attack.

The “heat” map presentation does not specifically identify individuals. But cross analysis with other posting data, etc. can yield that information. For activity in major urban areas with lots of other persons tracked, the map alone does not provide much insight. But when repeated activity appears in unoccupied areas, particular in combat zones, this attracts potentially unwanted interest.

Clearly military organizations are likely to initiate some steps to prevent this new form of “traffic analysis.” Such policies need to go beyond the obvious smart phones and now Fitbits to include many IoT devices. The privacy/security issues with surveillance often include “are we being watched” concerns for government abuse. There also exists the reverse disclosure as well. The public and perhaps bad guys can identify where government activities may be occurring, even those considered secret.