Low Tech, Low Trust

Some years ago, Dad Red picked up a little book of maxims, cautions, and humor all centered on Murphy’s Law and it’s corollaries, commentaries, postulates, and refinements. Even before I started working with power tools, machinery, aircraft, or computers, I knew that anything that could go wrong would. Because it did. Sib calls me a Luddite because of my refusal to be the beta tester for anything electronic, including software. Or rather, Sib did, until a friend persuaded Sib to upload a bootleg (1), beta version (2) of an OS prototype (3) and toasted the motherboard on the computer in the process. Sib toned down the criticism and I did not say “I told you so” or “thpppppth.” To this day, I have a rather jaundiced view of people who gush about the latest electronic gizmo and how fantastic it is to have everything networked and how great it will be when the Singularity comes! To which I say, “Ah, have you seen the Terminator movies, or heard of a Cyberman?” That applies to the internet of things.

The guys selling whole-house networked systems do not like me. I’m the one who asks if X back-door hack has been patched yet, or if the hole in the OS that lets people override the thermostat using a cell phone is fixed and available. They tend to stare at me and say, “huh?” I have a bad habit of visiting computer security blogs and skimming over the latest bad news about hacks and exploits, especially of gizmos. Like nursery cameras and baby monitors and Barbie(TM) dolls and other devices. I fully expect smart appliances to be the next fun thing the bad guys manage to get into, and people suddenly discover that their bank accounts have been drained through their refrigerator. Or someone has changed the password on their refrigerator and they can’t get in until they provide a credit card number or the like.

Yes, I’m being a little silly, but only a little. I am not a rabid privacy advocate. I have not taped over the camera on my computer yet. I do practice safe browsing and stay away from certain neighborhoods of the Internet. My passwords are not PASSWORD and they get changed pretty often. I keep up with the not-quite-latest news about computer security for the laywoman. But I am distrustful of the Internet of Things, the connected gizmos that are so convenient and so easily hacked (thus far). Not just because the whole-house controller had/has a back door the size of a medieval tithe barn, either.

I do not like the (no longer entirely accurate) idea of an anti-social teenage guy sitting in his bedroom and taking over my thermostat and watching me through my computer for kicks and giggles, or tapping my router to download pirated music and pr0n. I really am not fond of corporations, be it the utility company or advertisers, tracking me and deciding that I really did not want the temperature in the house that high. Or bombarding me with ads for cars because I left the sound on during an insurance commercial. I do not care to have my computer tattle to my health insurance company via my fitness tracker that I’m crossing over the Xth percentile on body weight for women my age, and I get a note increasing my premiums. Or an offer to drop my premiums if I join a fitness-tracking group at the gym, or a weight-loss program. I suspect, if the current TV dies at some point and the situation allows, there will be no TV in Redquarters or Schloß Red.

I would not be surprised in the least to discover that someone could hack my vehicle’s entertainment and data system. Some day, if I hit the ON button and nothing but lectures about French existentialist poets comes on, or roots country music, or a voice informing me that unless I give them my credit card number (or bank account and routing #s) they will lock the car doors and play “Dust in the Wind” on constant repeat I’ll know exactly what happened. Nor would I be surprised if it turns out that someone has found a way to take over some part of the engine or steering control software and if the driver does not pay up . . .

I like some automation, and texting a little and having lots of music at my command are great. Wordprocessing is my friend, or fiend if I forget to disable Otto Correct. I have serious doubts concerning the need for my ‘fridge to talk to the grocery store, or my scale to my insurer. A woman’s weight and her age are her business alone.

As is how I like my toast. 😉

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3 thoughts on “Low Tech, Low Trust

  1. “Good morning passengers. Welcome to the first completely automated airliner. Sit back and enjoy your flight. Don’t be concerned as nothing can go wrong go wrong go wrong.” [Very Big Evil Grin]

  2. I am very wary of networking stuff through electronics. My experience with electronics is, they ALWAYS fail at some (usually highly inopportune) point. Sure having your thermostat networked with your kitchen range and your garage door, so it can turn up when you drive in your garage, and turn down to avoid excess heating when you start dinner, might be nice… but. Remember, the more stuff that is networked together, the more stuff that goes down when something fails, and the more stuff that is networked, the more things there are to fail, and cause a cascade of failures.
    My primary heat in my house is wood, but I put in a propane furnace when I first built it, and it is my backup heat for when I am away. I got one with an electric fan, for better efficiency and air circulation, but when researching gas furnaces, I was flabbergasted by the number of them that needed electricity to work. Who thinks it is a good idea to design a gas furnace (read alternate heat source) that only works with electricity? Hello, isn’t (or shouldn’t it be) one of the big selling points of a gas furnace that it works when the power goes out?

  3. Remember, “Genisys is Skynet” 😉

    I dislike multi-purpose devices, with the exception of my VCR/DVR. The more you cram into a device, the higher the failure risk.

    I carry a flip phone – what I call a “dumb” phone. I do not trust all those apps on the so called smart-phones. I don’t even like the gps in cars because of how easy it is for someone to track your car. I drive my sister nuts every time she uses her GM Included “auto assist” feature. (I tend to make noises reminiscent of Sputnik.) Heck, the hair on the back of my neck went up during a recent car commercial when they mentioned “software”. Cars should not have software. They should have strong V8 engines with four-barrel carburetors, not some device that has to think for a second to decide if I really do need that much acceleration. [er, the car cannot see that semi about to climb in my trunk, I can. I want over 300 horses picking up in a real hurry.]

    No, I do not want to be able to unlock my home from my cell phone. Or turn off the lights, or the security system, or any of that stuff.

    And those driverless cars scare me senseless.

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