The staff of Fortune is assembling its predictions for 2017 in our annual feature, the Fortune Crystal Ball, now on newsstands in the December 1 issue of the magazine. Here’s one of our forecasts.
It is a great irony that a system designed to withstand nuclear war falls so easily victim to a stampede of beeping baby monitors and webcams. We’re talking about the Internet, of course. In October a number of top websites—Twitter (TWTR), Amazon (AMZN), Spotify, and more—were knocked offline when a sprawling botnet attacked New Hampshire-based Dyn DNS, a firm that serves as an Internet switchboard.
An army of hijacked Internet of Things devices swarmed this choke point with overwhelming traffic. The result? A massive Internet outage. Now, far from being fixed, the problem compounds each time an unsecured device—surveillance cameras, toasters, and other home appliances—rolls off the production line with a weak default password. With billions of connected “things” entering the grid, it’s open season for hackers.
Fortune tends to agree with Jeremiah Grossman, chief of security strategy at SentinelOne, an antivirus software displacer, who commented after the recent strike that it “could easily be just a canary in the coal mine.”