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There’s no reality like surreality

Whenever I have some spare time I like to stay up to date on the latest Internet of Things devices in the marketplace. Whenever possible I evaluate them personally. So far I have always followed this strict procedure:

  1. Install an eval unit on a dedicated, firewalled, subnet with access to the Internet and a hardware sniffer.
  2. Sniff trace the traffic between the device and the manufacturer’s mother ship to see if it is encrypted or trivially broken.
  3. Try a few basic hacking techniques.
  4. After determining the device is not one I’d ever consider using personally due to its massive security design flaws, I re-box it and place it with the other tested and disused items on what I like to call my “Quantified Shelf.”

Some #IoT devices don’t get even as far as my buying them due to what seem to be obvious flaws based on the marketing copy:

I’m sure the day will come when I tell my grandchildren (in my best curmudgeonly patriarch voice) “Why, when I was your age the deadbolt was the anti-theft mode!” Now that we have “smart” devices anti-theft mode has apparently become a deadbolt feature and is no longer considered a core function.

Which is scary enough until you stop to wonder what problem this “feature” solves. Did a bunch of people with the early versions of the “smart” deadbolts come home to find the deadbolts stolen? Were they so expensive that the deadbolt itself was the most valuable thing the homeowner had that was easy to carry? How is it the first we hear of this is a marginal notation on the Amazon item listing for the more secure version of the device and not splashed all over the evening news?

Back in 1970 Firesign Theatre posited an alternative surreality in which we blithely forgave vendors and kept purchasing their shitty broken products as the vendors slowly improved — but never quite perfected — them. This despite that the consequences of using the products seemed a bit, well, drastic:

Now, if you’re Mr. Common Sense, you won’t believe me when I tell you that I’ve got an envelope that’ll clean your car while you’re driving it home to work. Well, George, believe me this time, because this one isn’t like the Austrian self-sharpening razorbacks. No, friends, no overheating like with the the tropical fishes. This one won’t take over your house like the high-speed vibrating clocks.

Is this what it’s come to? The surreal world the Firesign Theatre painted for us in their radio plays and albums sprung to life? After all, they did release an album called Everything You Know Is Wrong that was practically dripping with alternative facts. Their Presidential candidate’s slogan was “If elected, I refuse to serve!” They did a whole play called In the next world you’re on your own, and from the looks of it, we really are.

Long story short, whether you own a “smart” #IoT device or just live in the USA, survivalists got it all wrong. The people who will come out the other side of this sadistic circus fun-house we call the US Administration are the Firesign Theatre fans. We’ve already taken Surreality Boot Camp and it didn’t break us. As far as you know.