BOSTON — On the surface, the prank seemed harmless. A decade ago, the first universal remotes for changing channels on any television or cable TV box went on sale. Two junior high boys - armed with remotes - targeted the homes of seniors.
From porches, they pointed the remote through a window and clicked. Channels changed. For the unsuspecting viewers, reaction was confused, even fearful. The boys just thought it was funny. Of course, it was not.
Fast forward to today. Cable TV companies are set to provide Internet access direct to the home. It eliminates the need for a dial-up modem. The simplicity, like putting a key in the car and turning the motor on, will draw millions of new Internet users.
But since the local cable to the home is always on, the home computer (or computer/television hybrid) will always be connected to the Internet, whether someone is typing, watching, or listening.
Unfortunately, as James Turner's column (page 12) makes clear, this presents a perpetual opportunity for mischievous young boys, and others not so young and much more than mischievous, to click a keyboard from a remote location and gain access to that home computer, now always on.
This is much more serious than changing the channel on someone's TV. Illegal access to all kinds of information and accounts might result.
The cable industry needs to establish secure protocols for every home computer connected to the Internet over its wires. They need to spell out how this is accomplished in terms the average cable viewer can understand and feel comfortable with. Or this bump in the information highway may turn into a major detour compromising the promise that being connected all the time offers.
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