Internet of Things – The Gonk Risk

The Internet of Things is the actual trend to connect all smart devices to the internet, or at least a Cloud. This includes computers, laptops, phones, TVs, but also less smart devices, such as wearables, washing machines or printers. A world, where machines with different levels of intelligence co-existed already had been presented by the original 1977 Star Wars movie. Of course, C-3P0 and R2-D2 had been part of the lead characters, but George Lucas created a big diversity of droids, and not all of them spoke fluently over 6 million languages as the golden robot.

Especially the power droids became a fan favorite. They are not a classic droid, more a mobile power generator. Due to this, its Artificial Intelligence was limited, what included its communication skills. The machine was only capable to produce “gonk”-like sounds, what became also the droid’s nickname.

Two Droids
Two Droids (1997), by Patrick Henz. Left: GNK Power Droid (“Gonk”), right: LIN Droid.

In today’s networks printers are such a gonk-like device. They are connected to the Cloud for our convenience. Automatically they send a message to the manufacturer to ensure that the client receives on time the new ink. For this task the machine does not need a sophisticated AI. This makes these devices vulnerable for hacker-attacks. Relevant, as users may send confidential documents wire-less to the device to print them out.

Furthermore hackers may emulate the behavior a gonk-device, as a printer, washing machine, refrigerator or toy to get access to a network. If this is established, the faked device may get used to enter a virus into the network. Damage could be a full shut-down of the system or that the refrigerator orders food delivered to a different address. Not only a challenge for the anti-virus software, but also the user, as not all devices should get automatically added to the company- or home-network.



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