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NSA targets the Internet of Things as a new data source

The Internet of Things (IoT) may be the US National Security Agency's next potential target for spying and collecting data according to a comment made by its deputy director at a recent military technology conference.

During the conference, which was held in Washington DC on 10 June, deputy director of the NSA Richard Ledgett said that the agency is considering potential ways it could collect data from internet-connected devices such as smart appliances and pacemakers. According to the Intercept, he said: “We're looking at it sort of theoretically from a research point of view right now.” IoT technology has yet to become truly mainstream and as such the NSA exploring ways it could utilise this new wave of devices to collect information is in line with the agency's past activities.

Ledgett believes that IoT technology could be a “security nightmare” and may even result in a “signals intelligence bonanza” due to the sheer number of connected devices as well as the amount of data they collect. Biomedical devices could also be an asset to the NSA but would only be tapped for information under rare circumstances.

Regarding his work with the NSA, Ledgett said: “As my job is to penetrate other people’s networks, complexity is my friend. The first time you update the software, you introduce vulnerabilities, or variables rather. It’s a good place to be in a penetration point of view.”

Ledgett also made the point that the NSA has to really consider which devices it chooses to prioritise since it does not have the resources to exploit every device on the market. This was a key point in the case of the San Bernardino Attack where the FBI was unable to unlock the shooter's iPhone without help from white hat hackers.

Photo credit: 360b / Shutterstock

After getting his start at ITProPortal and then working with the TechRadar Pro team for the last several years, Anthony is now the security and networking editor at Tom’s Guide where he covers everything from data breaches to how to cover your whole home or business with Wi-Fi. When not writing, you can find him tinkering with PCs and game consoles, managing cables and upgrading his smart home.