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University Betrayed by Internet of Things

University Betrayed by Internet of Things

For big universities, Internet of Things (IoT) devices are a blessing. Connecting lights, thermostats, and even vending machines to a single network makes it easy to run huge campus buildings and complex logistics systems. Most of the time, anyway, as a recent report from Verizon shows.

The report details a botnet attack that hijacked the IoT devices of an unnamed university. Botnets work by spreading malware from computer to computer, making infected machines do shitty things without their owners knowledge. In this case, the school’s lights and vending machines incessantly googled seafood to slow down the internet for everyone else.

As far as cyberattacks go, this is more annoying than nefarious, the rough equivalent of pouring a few hundred marbles into a busy hallway. And the school was able to solve the issue without too much difficulty. But it does raise questions about campus cybersecurity, especially as devices become even more connected. Students and faculty rely on the internet, and schools have to keep sensitive personal information in their databases. The cost of a sophisticated hack could be high whether that cost is financial or not. But when the university help desk received reports of sluggish connections, they did what every other university help desk would do in the situation: they shrugged it off.

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In a perfect world, I’d be a professor who teaches poetry using episodes of mediocre sci-fi procedurals, but for now, I’m just a tutor who watches a lot of TV. I got my BA from Kalamazoo College in English with a focus on creative writing, and someday soon I’d like to go back to academia.

Most of my formal teaching training was as a creative writing TA, but I’ve used those skills professionally more to tutor math and write data entry training materials. And though I’d like to focus my work on what I’m really passionate about (which is Netflix binges and outdated video games, mostly), it’s the craft of teaching and writing that keeps me coming back. That’s why I’m excited to be a part of High Faluter: I’m finding that academia doesn’t just stay in academia. And if I can bring crappy midbrow entertainment into academia too, well, all the better. You can find me on Twitter: @StewartFinnegan