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Tuesday
Jul292014

How I Know We're Living in the Future

This is unrelated to my conviction we're living in the future, but I thought it might be interesting. I'm generally not a big sports fan, but I've taken an interest in soccer in the last few years, ever since Seattle got a MLS team. I like that it doesn't really stop for anything. I like football when the action is happening, but it seems like 3/4s of the game is waiting for something to happen. Soccer can be boring at times, but I find it's the closest I come to caring about sports. I've also noticed a certain synergy between writing (creatively, not code) and watching soccer. When I write I frequently have an idea of what I want to say, but I make frequent stops to mull over the wording. While I'm doing that, I'll watch the game. It's sometimes distracting, but I'm usually able to watch and enjoy most of the game while formulating specific sentence structure. So the reason I wrote something yesterday was because the Sounders were playing (and got massacred by LA. It was embarrassing), and today I'm watching an old English Premier Game that NBC Sports was replaying at 4AM that I taped. I don't know how I even found it, but there you go.

On to the topic at hand. I know the gold standard for living in the future is flying cars, and we don't really have those yet, but I think I can make a case for this story being adequate proof of our future-living. This story is a few weeks old at this point (so we're at least 3 weeks into the future, I think), but I only heard about it recently. Basically, some good guy hackers found they could extract the wifi network key because of a poorly implemented crypto system in smart light bulbs (!!!WTF?!?!) When security vulnerabilities in your light bulbs are a real thing, I think it's safe to say we live in the future. There's a million articles about this already so I won't go into painful detail about it, but it is a pretty clever attack.

It's not really as bad as it sounds. This wasn't a trivial thing that they did to discover the vulnerability. They had to acquire a bulb, take it apart and basically reverse engineer it. The light bulbs used a mesh network to communicate with each other, which got around the issue of needing to have a light bulb in range of the wifi router. As long as they were in range of each other, they could pass along traffic to bulbs in range of the router. Part of the traffic the bulbs would send to each other, and specifically new bulbs, was the wifi password. That sounds bad, but I think it's understandable given the size limitations of a light bulb and what they were trying to accomplish. They were encrypting the password also, the only problem was how they implemented that. Here comes the bonehead part. They used a static key for all light bulbs. Once the security researches were able to discover the key, that was pretty much it. All they would have to do is pose as a new bulb and any bulbs nearby on the network would gladly pass on the wifi password to the newcomer. If that's not living in the future, I don't know what is.

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