Your thermostat could short circuit our entire nation

TerrorizingIf you own a smart device such as a home thermostat that can be regulated from a remote location thanks to the “Internet of Things”, then you could unwittingly be placing our entire nation’s safety at risk.

Here’s how. A cutting-edge cyber terrorist could hack into your smart thermostat and easily gain access to your personal information. He could then, in turn, follow that thread to your corporate information. And, if your corporation happens to have a supply chain (and how many don’t?), there’s a good chance the cyber terrorist could hack his way into a local utility and, by leveraging their access codes, disable our entire country’s energy grid.

The end result would be to bring America screeching to a complete halt. There’d be no planes flying overhead, no IT systems to keep Wall Street and Silicon Valley running and no means for me to stay current with HBO’s “Vinyl”.

This is clearly no laughing matter. Nor is it fantasy. It’s fact. And, according to one of the cyber security experts who spoke at the Joint Service Academy Cyber Security Summit, we can expect just such a catastrophic event to occur within the next five years, or sooner.

That’s why The Military Academy at West Point, along with all of the other major armed service branches, have been racing at breakneck speed to find a fix before the bad guys strike. But, this initiative goes far beyond the military, and involves the government, academia and leading members of the private sector.

West Point’s Army Cyber Security Institute is taking the lead in coordinating discussions, best practices and cooperation amongst the players responsible for assuring our nation’s cyber safety. The summit was one of their first, large-scale initiatives.

We heard disturbing lectures, anecdotes and predictions from the likes of Homeland Defense Secretary Jeh Johnson, Rick Ledgett, deputy director and senior civilian leader of the National Security Agency and General Raymond T. Odierno, U.S. Army (retired), who was the nation’s 38th Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army, and currently serves as senior advisor to the chairman, CEO and operating committee at JP Morgan Chase.

Their message was sober, if not downright scary: While we have dozens of cyber experts currently protecting the U.S., the enemy has thousands of cyber criminals trying their very best each, and every, day to bring us down.

The Summit’s call to action was two-fold:

– Immediate and ongoing communication, and sharing of best practices, among all parties in all sectors (Note: Surprisingly, this is already happening among the big Wall Street players, who willingly allow “competitors” access to their firewalls to help the group as a whole detect and prevent intrusion.
– Nationwide recruiting of talented Millennials and Gen Zs, who grew up playing video games, have a natural affinity for the cyber world and could help us decrease the lopsided number advantage currently enjoyed by the enemy.

I’m proud to be assisting the Army Cyber Institute in helping to communicate what every leading Summit speaker said he believed is the single biggest threat facing America today. But, I’m an army of one, and they need so much more help.

So, think twice the next time you activate a smart device from a remote location. You may be providing access to that one cyber terrorist who could bring us all to our knees.


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