IoT Wars: A Cautionary Tale

By: Wedge Greene


The room is tight and dark.  She has time to catch her breath and determine what to do - now that it has all fallen apart. 

Rachael never thought it would come to this: a home invasion where her own appliances turned against her.  Luckily Toby, her loyal German Shepard had woken her barking and growling at the cleaning bots moving around her bed. Nothing beats the vigilant loyalty from 250 thousand years of co-evolution and a steady diet of Scooby snacks.  On her release command, his carbon fiber reinforced teeth had done short work of attacking the articulated vacuum, clearing them a path to the safe room. 

Toby's trashing of the vacuum-bot set off the home-invader protocols triggering wailing house alarms and disabling strobes. She quickly crawled down the hallway with one hand on Toby’s collar.  The house invader alarms were specifically programmed to exempt affecting the dog; but ironically not her. As she enters the small safe room, the wailing alarms are muffled and for the moment she is safe.

Rachael reaches down and scruffs Toby’s neck but he shakes it off, continuing a soft growl at the scraping on the outside of the hardened-steel door. A few minutes and her vision would recover and the shakes should stop; then she could keyboard reliably and start responding to the attack. Still she had top-of-the-line voice response local in the secure private house AI, named Alexia after a long lost but never forgotten childhood friend.  Alexia was limited but did contain the safe room control systems which she had augmented with her virtual home office. 

“ local connectivity,” she mustered in between breaths.

“No Outgoing Internet connection. House is currently isolated under DDoS attack. Incoming connection averaging 3.5MB over baseline.” She could not reach her external cloud; for the moment she was isolated.


She reviews options and action list: ‘determine what was happening, then check for damage and survey how deep the attack’. First, connectivity: with the fiber broadband connection under attack, she should set up a secure VPN path through the neighborhood mesh networks.  

“Alexia, initiate backup connection, subroutine ‘launch a flicker connection to randomly hop through the local mesh network’,” Rachael commanded as her faculties started to return.

Rachael’s house had a six-directional radio antenna on the roof as part of the network emergency and response system, as had all the thousand houses in the planned urban development. The number of possible paths out was practically infinite. Rachael’s internal monologue helps steady her: 

"See if you can block that." Once past the target attack zone she could rent a short term piggy back over a neighbors' access out - she thinks to herself. That is, 'if this was a personal attack and not a general cyber-terrorism targeting the entire town or worse.’ 

Alexia responds.

“Access restored.  Peggy’s home agent reported connectivity and granted you access on her up stream access network.  Maintaining switched flicker connection to Peggy’s gateway, routing through multiple home radios using four or more hop paths with route changes every 30 seconds.”  

“Alexia, when she wakes, send a bottle of Alexander to Peggy with my thanks.” 

Yes, Rachael. Adding Alexander Valley wine to shopping list," Alexia confirms.

Her sight was beginning to recover and the strobe flash-bang tremors abating. A few minutes and she could start keyboarding some response programs.  Time to determine what was happening.

“Alexia, flash status on North East Control Analytics.”

Your company Flash Status for today is…” As her systems begin reporting status, she realizes that the home attack is only the violent face of this operation.  The home cyber sabotage seems designed to distract or otherwise preemptively remove her response from the playing field.  The status panel showed her device count is dropping precipitously.  She calls up the IT Analytics Operations package and aggregates data from machines, agents, and network probes. There is a correlation among the data dropouts, falloff in traffic, and ‘no returns’ on device pings.  Running a root cause analysis she finds a discontinuity at the edge management agents for the groundwater control systems.

She cross checks against the after hour markets. A market news sniffer shows where International Widget is offering a tender for the data from the northwest rainfall grid – one of her device clouds. Many companies could benefit from early announcement of the rainfall and flow data. That answers who: Jonathan of International Widget was making a play for her device base. He must be bitter from his loss in the Salle at last week’s fencing match.  She should not have gone easy on him as he must have mistaken her graciousness for weakness.


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