What if someone hacked this remotely controlled semi-autonomous tractor?
I am a cybersecurity guy and a huge fan of technology. One of the challenges we are facing in the security industry is the growth of the Internet of Things (IoT). IoT is about connecting everyday ‘things’ to the Internet. It might be a toaster, alarm clock, pressure sensor, valve, security camera, medical pill, or vehicle. The benefits can be tremendous, with remote monitoring, management, and the ability to control something from afar. It can enable machines to do the mundane tasks we want to avoid.
This is why the IoT market is exploding. The estimates of IoT devices being connected to the Internet is approximately 25 billion by 2020.
But there are risks, because technology is just a tool. One which can be used for noble purposes but also for malicious acts. Every connected device could potentially be taken over by someone else, who is not interested in your privacy, security, safety, or prosperity.
It can be petty, as with someone who makes your crock pot overcook your dinner. But it can be unnerving and downright dangerous as well. A stalker who hacks your home cameras without you knowing. A terrorist who takes over operation of vehicles on the freeway. A nation state which can undermine an adversary’s power grid and water supply. An anarchist who brings down critical equipment in emergency rooms. These are not pleasant situations. Technology can be compromised.
So I spend my days looking into such things and pondering the future where technology innovation and security threats intersect. Here is the latest little gem I was contemplating on a lazy afternoon. Meet the Case IH Autonomous Concept Vehicle. It is a powerful beast of a machine. A tractor which can run itself with semi-autonomous capabilities or be controlled by an operator remotely. The benefits of an autonomous tractor, could be great, even game-changing for the agriculture output of a farm. Taking advantage of narrow harvesting windows and using optimal routes to maximize the crop return, these things could run in packs, doing work 24x7 just stopping for fuel, to maximize yields. They might even be able to farm areas we thought impossible or undesirable. The benefits to the farming output of a nation could be outstanding.
But on the other hand, I really don’t want even one of these beasts to be hijacked by some hacker. The damage one could cause would be tremendous. The difficulty of stopping it may prove overwhelming to local law enforcement. A tornado on wheels.
I am not singling out this device over any others, just using it as an example of the dichotomy between technology and security. There are tremendous potential benefits, but at the same time they are accompanied with grievous potential risks. We as a society, must understand both sides and maneuver in a way which finds a good balance, institutes proper safety measures, and aligns to healthy ethics for the greater community. Security grows more important as we embrace technology.