Daily Management Review

US Agencies Might use the Internet of Things to Spy: US Intelligence Chief


US Agencies Might use the Internet of Things to Spy: US Intelligence Chief
Security agencies might use a new generation of smart household devices to increase their surveillance capabilities. This was acknowledged for the first time by the US intelligence chief.
The so-called internet of things promises consumers increased convenience due to increasing numbers of devices connect to the internet and to one another. But experts warn that the security features on the coming wave of automobiles, dishwashers and alarm systems lag far behind as home computing migrates away from the laptop, the tablet and the smartphone.
It was time to consider making the home devices “more defensible”, but did not address the opportunities that increased numbers and even categories of connected devices provide to his surveillance agency, said Adm Michael Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency in an appearance at a Washington thinktank last month.
As part of an assessment of threats facing the United States in testimony submitted to the Senate this week, James Clapper, the US director of national intelligence was more direct.
 “In the future, intelligence services might use the [internet of things] for identification, surveillance, monitoring, location tracking, and targeting for recruitment, or to gain access to networks or user credentials,” Clapper said.
However no names of any particular agency as involved in household-device surveillance was given by Clapper. The US and other surveillance services will intercept the signals the newly networked devices emit, much as they do with those from cellphones claim the security experts examining the internet of things.
And easily computerized hardware has already caught the interest of amateurs like computer programmer John Matherly’s whose search engine Shodan, indexes thousands of completely unsecured web-connected devices.
With the mutating threat of low-intensity terrorism quickly following, online threats again topped the intelligence chief’s list of “worldwide threats” the US faces.
Sunni violent extremism “has more groups, members, and safe havens than at any other point in history”, said Clapper when asked about the scope of the threat who has for years used the equivocal term “evolving”.  
Clapper warned that the US-backed Saudi war in Yemen was redounding to the benefit of al-Qaida’s local affiliate even as the Islamic State topped the threat index.
Rather than Islamic State or al-Qaida attacks planned from overseas, domestically, “homegrown extremists” are the greatest terrorist threat. As examples of lethal operations emanating from self-starting extremists “without direct guidance from [Isis] leadership” Clapper cited the San Bernardino and Chattanooga shootings.
Despite a war in Syria and Iraq that the Pentagon has pledged to escalate, the US intelligence officials did not foresee Isis suffering significant setbacks in 2016. The jihadist army would “probably retain Sunni Arab urban centers” in 2016, even as military leaders pledged to wrest the key cities of Raqqa and Mosul from it, said the chief of defense intelligence, Marine Lt Gen Vincent Stewart.
He was “less optimistic in the near term about Mosul”, saying the US and Iraqi government would “certainly not” retake it in 2016, said the US defense secretary, Ashton Carter.
Clapper said intelligence agencies were in a “distrust and verify mode” on the Iran nuclear deal. He added: “We have no evidence thus far that they’re moving toward violation.”
It is rare for a US official to admit about surveillance potential as Clapper did for networked home devices.