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Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Home is Where the Hack is

I admit, I've been called every name in the book, but none more frequently than "curmudgeon."  I don't really mind it, however, because it's a pretty apt description of me.  I question everything and take nothing for granted.  I don't trust you until you prove yourself worthy of that trust, because most of the time, I know you're trying to sell me something.

Oh, you may not think you're trying to sell me something, but you are.  And usually it's something that's going to work out really well for you, but maybe not so well for me.  No matter, though. You'll have made your money and I'll be suffering the consequences of having parted with mine and all the while, you'll have convinced yourself that you were acting in my interest.

Don't sweat it. You're in good company.  Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and a host of other techno-tycoons have done the same thing. They've invented stuff to do stuff we've never had to do before, convincing us that their stuff will make our stuff that much better.  As a result, Steve Jobs has you paying for equipment upgrades in months instead of years. Bill Gates has made sure every virus on the planet has a home on your hard drive. And Mark Zuckerberg has mastered the art of making you feel both lonely and left out using nothing but a screen.

Everyone, it seems, is bent on selling you technology you don't need (yes, I still wear a wrist watch and no, I don't own a smart phone - yet), but none can be more questionable than the latest offering from your cable provider and ISP:  Remote Home Security networks.

In case you've been on Mars for the last few years, Remote Home Security networks allow you to check on and manage everything in your home from a remote location via the internet. Most people use their smart phones to check if the lights are turned off, the thermostat is lowered or the doors are locked.  You get the smart phone app for free.  Installing the system costs a modest sum, but the real pain begins with the monthly access charge. Now and forever, buyers of these pointless systems pay a minimum of $39 a month -- we're talking $500 a year -- for life.

Did I say pointless? What I meant to say was dangerous.

You can't go two days in a row without hearing or watching story devoted to someone, somewhere hacking into systems or fortressed corporations and stealing millions of credit card numbers or people's vital information.  The only reason you don't hear about it every day is because the media has to allow enough time to inform you about the day's murders. But that's another story.

I guess the cable companies and ISPs figure since they're already selling you internet access, they might as well sell you more uses for it, and by that measure Remote Home Security systems make sense.  It's something that makes them money, but is it really in your interest?  Think about it. If hacking has surpassed soccer as the world's most popular sport, why wouldn't hackers take aim at Remote Home Security systems to not only find out when you're not home, but disarm your alarm system, unlock your doors and have their buddies ransack the place?

Especially if they can do it from two continents away?

If you believe Remote Home Security is going to make you and yours safer and more secure, that certainly your choice.  As for me, I'm a curmudgeon. I'll continue to make sure my German Shepherd stays hungry.

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