Debugging the Real World: Robust Criminal Prosecution in the Internet of Things

Internet-linked versions of ordinary objects now dominate the horizon of the technology industry. These devices, collectively referred to as the Internet of Things (“IoT”), span everything from toothbrushes to smart homes, from self-driving cars to refrigerators that know when the owner is out of eggs. Because IoT devices usually have minimal computing power, they are more vulnerable to security breaches than their more familiar cousins: laptops, tablets, and mobile phones. This creates the risk that hackers can gain control of real-world objects with minimal effort and a low probability of getting caught. To solve this problem, a three-pronged approach is necessary: existing criminal statutes must be refocused to impose the harshest sentences on the most damaging of cybercrimes; prosecutor’s offices must incorporate specialized cybercrimes units to competently navigate the unique legal issues in IoT; and a civil enforcement regime must be brought to bear against companies that make products without adequate security protocols for the applicable task. By shoring up IoT security vulnerabilities through improved legislation, improved criminal enforcement, and improved technological barriers, the future of IoT can be kept safe for all to enjoy.