Why Does So Much Tech Suck?

One of the joys of continuing my education is having getting to write a mini-article once a week for my fellow students and instructors. I’ve decided to share some of the better ones here. B.

One of the mindsets that tech marketing latched onto a long time ago and has nurtured to maddening extremes is the notion that if you don’t have the very latest, bleeding edge tech gadget or hip new app, somehow you are missing out on life. FOMO, the fear of missing out, drives people to buy things without having a clue what the technology does or what risks may be involved, and gadget manufacturers push new toys out into the market without taking time to ask whether they should.

FOMO addiction has become pervasive in developed countries. As described by John M. Grohol, Psy.D., in an article for Psych Central, “FOMO … is so intense, even when we’ve decided to disconnect, we still connect just once more, just to make sure” (2018). With even more intrusive technologies like IoT, the Internet of Things, it only gets worse. Now we’re not only checking for emails, tweets, and posts of various flavors. With IoT, my refrigerator will tell me when I need more milk, my robot vacuum cleaner will tell me when I need to empty its trash compartment, and my doorbell will tell me when someone is at my front door whether I am home or not.

IoT devices are a classic and very current example of new tech gadgetry being shoved out the door without due consideration of the long-term risks or responsibilities involved in implementing this new tech at scale. The Ring smart doorbell has been found to have serious security flaws, and hackers have had little difficulty hijacking them. From there, it is a short step to stalking, harassment, and blackmail (O’Donnell, 2019). And a single hacked IoT device can serve as an open doorway to an entire network. With that in mind, it’s a little more difficult to blow off having your coffee maker hacked (Goodin, 2020) as being “nothing to worry about.”

As for me, as much as my inner geek would love to have all kinds of new toys that beep and move and flash their LEDs with cuteness and charm, the cynical security geek knows that each and every one of those new toys was rushed to production with nary a thought to the risks involved.

Thanks, but I’ll wait till version 3, 4, or maybe even 5 is released…


References

Goodin, D. (2020, September 26). When coffee makers are demanding a ransom, you know IoT is screwed. Ars Technica. https://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2020/09/how-a-hacker-turned-a-250-coffee-maker-into-ransom-machine/

Grohol, J. M. (2018, July 8). FOMO addiction: The fear of missing out. Psych Central. https://psychcentral.com/blog/fomo-addiction-the-fear-of-missing-out/

O’Donnell, L. (2019, December 18). Ring plagued by security issues, flood of hacks. Threatpost. https://threatpost.com/ring-plagued-security-issues-hacks/151263/

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