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TheStreet Open House

#DigitalSkeptic: We Have Built an Internet of Really Vulnerable Things

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Investors are facing an Internet of really, really ... really (!) vulnerable things.

"Basically anything with an IP address is open to attack," is how Adrian Turner summed it up to me during a frankly terrifying phone call.

Turner is both CEO of Mocana, a San Francisco information security firm, and the rarest of rarities in the security business: an executive not afraid to admit that his industry does a miserable job of communicating the preposterous risks lurking in the Information Age.

"Security vendors have fanned the flames of imminent collapse to drive sales. But the world is still in place," he said. "So people are numb to the news."

The dawning investor menace here, of course, is that value-destroying information-based attacks are no longer confined to the world's HP (HPQ) PCs, Apple (AAPL) iPads or even this or that Samsung smartphone. Serious processing capability, network connectivity and powerful software are finding their way into the world's most mundane things. This "Internet of Things" now connects everything from pacemakers to hotel door locks. And Turner is seeing a bewildering comprehension gap about the vulnerability of this Web of smart electronics.

"There is this illusion of blind trust in the electronics around us," he said. "So when gadgets betray us, we are shocked."

Even the most casual walk-through of this newly minted Internet of Things is astonishing in revealing its vulnerability.

The individual risk
Never mind the made-for-the-Web stunts of journalists such as Forbes' Andy Greenberg driving a hacked Ford (F) Escape. Or well-publicized conspiracy theories surrounding the death of Rolling Stone writer Michael Hastings in what may -- or may not -- have been a compromised vehicle. Or the stories of the critical infrastructure of everything from human pacemakers to power plant valves being susceptible to attack.

What's truly ghastly about the Internet of Things risk is the seeming joy Information Age boosters are taking in compromising the most intimate crevices of our lives and businesses.

I kid you not, Chicago-based security firm Trustwave has reverse-engineered a high-end Japanese Internet-enabled toilet called the LIXIL Satis. Now any creep with a Web connection can ... I can't even write the sentence, it's so bizarre.

The actual risk is probably minimal. After all, who really spends more than $5,000 on a toilet? But if after studying the app, the hack and the product, it's clear most everything in our homes thus connected can be compromised in similar ways.

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