The hackable technology that worries even a legendary con man

Before we release new technology into the ether, we need to make safeguards so that bad actors can't misuse them.

FRANK W. ABAGNALE: All the things that worry me are autonomous cars, things to hack vehicles, pacemakers, your laptop at home where you didn't cover the camera and someone is watching everything you're doing in your house or listening to everything you're doing in your house. All those things give me great concern.

Right now cybercrime is basically a financial crime. Its a business of stealing money or stealing data. Data is money. However, I think its going to turn a lot blacker than that. We have the ability right now as I speak to you to shut someones pacemaker off but were limited by distance. We have to be within 35 feet of the victim. I could walk by you on the sidewalk, turn off your pacemaker, speed it up or any bodily device you have on you controlled by a chip or a computer program. We have that ability right now but again limited by distance.

We have the ability now for law enforcement to pull over a vehicle on the interstate if they can get within 35 feet of the vehicle because we know that the typical car has about 240 computer components in it. We can lock the car doors, lock the power windows, turn on the airbag, shut off the motor and take the car and pull it over. We can do that now but were limited to distance of 35 feet. So the question is five years from now will that be 35 miles, 350 miles, 3,500 miles away? Im afraid as the future comes and especially when you talk about cars that drive themselves. The ability to kidnap the person in the car and lock them in the car. The ability to just take over the car and crash the car. Those are the things that havent been answered that no one has figured out yet how they would stop that from happening. And those are the things that concern me.

We develop a lot of technology but we never go to the final step and that is the last question of the development in how would someone misuse this technology and lets make sure it cant be done. In your house you have a device you talk to and you say, "Hey, what time of day is it? Whats on TV tonight? Order me this from Amazon." Its a voice activated device easily hacked and manipulated to reverse to hear everything you say in your house. If you have cameras in your house maybe because of dog watching, babysitting, a hacker can easily reverse the camera so they can see everything that goes on in your house and watch it. The same with your outside cameras. We develop those technologies, we want to make them inexpensive, number one, so they're not encrypted. They don't have a lot of technology in them. And two, where its return on investment. We want our money back right away.

And marketing is saying, "Hey, this is great! Weve got to get this out right away!" Without asking that question what if someone were to do this with it and how could we stop that now before we ever put it in the marketplace. Very little companies do that. Most of the technology out there can be hacked, can be manipulated because we dont do those things.

  • Right now cybercrime is basically a financial crime — it's a business of stealing people's money or stealing their data. Data has value.
  • We develop a lot of technology — we need to always ask the question how the new innovation can be misused and make safeguards so that it cannot be done.
  • Because we currently don't do these things, we have hackable vehicles, pacemakers, and laptops.


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