No need to resort to Stranger Things or Black Mirror for your horror fix this Halloween – we’ve got you covered with a collection of the scariest IT stories we could dig up. While they may not be your traditional around-the-campfire-with-a-flashlight material, they sure spooked the heck out of our IT pros!
THE HOUSE THINKS FOR ITSELF
With the advent of smart tech that connects to a network of TVs and coffee pots and alarm clocks, it seems inevitable that entire houses will soon be connected to the Internet of Things.
House-wide technical glitches – something that looked like science fiction in the 50s and a laughable movie plot in the 90s – turned into one man’s real-life nightmare when his fully networked home went haywire. The whole fiasco was caused when a single malfunctioning lightbulb created an influx of failure notifications, which prompted a denial of service (DoS) attack. The entire house froze. Talk about a modern twist on the haunted house.
TV WATCHES YOU BACK
Remember that deep-seated paranoia you felt after reading 1984 in school? Now it can be yours full-time! Today’s smart TVs have surveillance capabilities George Orwell could only dream of.
Samsung came under fire recently for collecting private communications and transmitting the recordings to a third party. Earlier this year, Vizio was ordered to pay $2.2 million after it was caught monitoring the “second-by-second” viewing habits of 11 million TV users. For two years. Without consent.
Turns out that Big Brother may actually be watching.
THE GPS MADE ME DO IT
Because it has become so ubiquitous, we often put our blind trust in smart tech. Can you remember the last time you saw someone with an actual folding paper map? Didn’t think so. Now we take our orders from GPS: “Turn left here.” “Make a U-turn.” “Continue straight.”
It’s that last command that sank a Massachusetts man – literally. And he’s not the only one.
More and more people have let the apparent omniscience of the GPS override their gut instincts – right into a river, slough, ocean, lake – pretty much every body of water imaginable. Sometimes these mistakes are funny or even puzzling, like this woman who drove 900 miles instead of 90, but occasionally trusting the GPS can prove to be lethal.
Unshakeable faith in the navigation system has even given rise to a new defense in court: the GPS made me do it. The question is: What will GPS make you do?
SIRI GETS IN YOUR HEAD (AND HEART)
TV is littered with the all-too-familiar trope of executives who fall for their assistants. To some extent, it’s natural that you’d feel a personal connection with a constantly available assistant who anticipates your needs, remembers your preferences, and asks for nothing in return.
In 1964, in the middle of the Mad Men era, the sci-fi cult classic The Twilight Zone predicted what would happen to work relationships with the introduction of computer assistants. When Spike Jonze revisited the idea in 2013 with his “just-barely-sci-fi” film Her, the premise didn’t seem quite so far-fetched.
Romantic relationships with technology are unsettling, and they will continue to get more unsettling as AI inches closer to passing the Turing test – which most models predict will happen during our lifetime. Enjoy the new Blade Runner, everybody!
SABOTAGED BY AUTOPILOT
If GPS helps people autopilot themselves to ruin, how terrifying is actual autopilot? You know, the industry-wide technology that pilots rely on while flying commercial airplanes? The concept behind the self-driving cars from companies like Tesla, Google, Delphi, and Uber?
There is growing evidence to support the theory that over-reliance on autopilot makes airline pilots less effective in a crisis, but the scariest thing about self-driving machines is the vulnerability of the data this technology uses. The data that autopilot relies on can be corrupted, infected, or hacked with relative ease.
Need convincing? In 2013, a couple college students were able to take control of an $80 million, 213-ft luxury yacht using GPS spoofing, in which hackers send counterfeit location signals to throw off the system’s autopilot. In case you think it’s an isolated incident, they did the same thing to a drone.
Now imagine being trapped inside that malfunctioning computer program – at high speed. That’s exactly what happened to a writer for Wired magazine when his Jeep was remotely hacked on the freeway.
SKYNET IS REAL
Ask any tinfoil-wearing conspiracy theorist this side of Roswell, and they’ll tell you: Skynet is real. It’s not the post-apocalyptic human-murdering world of The Terminator quite yet, but earlier this month a woman named Sarah O’Conner gave evidence about artificial intelligence in court, so … believe what you want, I guess.
If you don’t trust her, maybe you’ll listen to Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk, or Bill Gates, who have all commented on the threats of artificial intelligence. Tech giants including Amazon, Apple, DeepMind, Facebook, Google, IBM, and Microsoft are all on board; they partnered to create something called the Partnership on Artificial Intelligence to Benefit People and Society – a group that is trying to nail down an industry code of ethics to make sure AI doesn’t destroy us.
Maybe Asimov shouldn’t have stopped after three laws.
...So what have we learned from all this? In short, everything is connected and everyone is vulnerable. Happy Halloween!