• Chris Kayser

Smart technology leaves homes, businesses vulnerable to online attack

Internet-connected devices give cyber crooks more opportunity for mischief, fraud

Smart coffee makers linked to other internet devices in the home can be used by hackers to steal credit card information. GETTY IMAGES photo

Is your refrigerator hackable?

Devices like smart appliances, cars, medical devices and even bike helmets can collect and transfer data wirelessly via the internet, creating a growing opportunity for hackers to steal information.

These Internet-of-Things (IoT) devices are becoming ubiquitous. In 2018 there were an estimated seven billion of them. That could grow to 34 billion by 2025 and 125 billion by 2030.

Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Home communication systems utilize the most up-to-date IoT technology to respond to our commands.

Appliances, security systems, autos and farm equipment, medical monitoring devices, smart tennis rackets and more have been designed to communicate without human intervention. Companies are fine-tuning apps based on IoT-transmitted data from smart devices such as phones, watches and other IoT devices.

Logistics, shipping containers, iris recognition systems, agricultural measuring systems and garbage collection data have advanced thanks to IoT technology. Devices can transmit patient data to medical facilities before the patient arrives to speed diagnosis and treatment. Our refrigerators can instruct us to pick up ice cream on the way home.

Our vehicles are inundated with IoT technology, communicating with thousands of parts to control performance, automatically scheduling our next service appointment and performing unassisted navigation.

However, any device connected to the internet is at risk of being hacked. An internet attack took down Twitter, the online Guardian newspaper, Netflix, Reddit and CNN. St. Jude Medical’s implanted cardiac devices and Owlet’s WiFi baby monitors were found to be hackable; unsecured TRENDnet security cameras could be easily compromised (now fixed); and a Jeep was taken control of remotely by friends of the driver and subsequently driven off the road (no one was hurt in this incident).

The greater the number of connected devices in an IoT chain, the more risk there is that one or more of the connected devices can be infiltrated from the initially hacked device.

As a result, hackers can obtain credit card information from as unlikely a source as a smart coffee machine.

Hacking someone’s refrigerator to schedule an unnecessary food order may seem harmless, but hacking an assembly line or a home heating system could result in substantial damages.

Hacking someone’s refrigerator to schedule an unnecessary food order may seem harmless, but hacking an assembly line or a home heating system could result in substantial damages.

Smart door cameras and locks have seen breaches, providing hackers a doorway to communicate with all IoT connected devices within the home.

Through botnets (a massive series of connected devices over the internet), malicious code can be transmitted to IoT devices for criminal activities such as ransomware demands, or creating system interruptions that have proved costly to individuals and companies.

When IoT technology is incorporated into devices such as our TVs, the more our conversations and activities are being monitored and recorded in our homes, with one scan revealing more than 70 listening devices in one home.

Should there be a cyber-intrusion of any one of a number of connected IoT devices, the risk of all connected devices immediately increases.

IoT devices can be updated with security patches by the product’s manufacturer without the intervention of the end user, but not all who produce IoT devices are diligent in providing such updates. IoT devices such as internet routers and home security cameras may have little to no significant built-in security, or receive security patches.

Hacking home internet routers can provide bad actors access to IoT devices. The more secure you can make your router, the less likely devices in your home will be hacked. Contact your router manufacturer or internet service provider to inquire about resetting your router’s security settings to more restrictive levels.

For IoT devices that require usernames and passwords, such as streaming services on TVs, consider changing passwords on a regular basis. If notified of any password breaches, change your password immediately.

If your home is not reacting to settings being controlled by an IoT device, such as pre-programmed lighting and temperature schedules, have the device checked or reprogrammed and monitor the results. If problems persist, your IoT controllers may have been hacked.

Stay cyber- safe by doing your homework about what smart devices you decide to bring into your home. Read reviews and pay particular attention to any reported security flaws related to devices you consider buying.

Chris Kayser is a cybercriminologist and founder, president & CEO of Cybercrime Analytics Inc. He is the author of two books: Cybercrime through Social Engineering – The New Global Crisis and How to Master an Online Degree – A Guide to Success.” He can be reached at ckayser@cybercrimeanalytics.com, or www.cybercrimeanalytics.com.



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