Your smart TV, fridge could be hacked a lot more easily than you may think

Posted by SGCS Admin, 12-10-2017

Akash came home from work to find his home had been ransacked. There was no sign of a break-in or any other struggle. It looked as if the thieves had just walked in through the front door. On closer investigation, Akash learnt that he wasn't robbed by run-of-the-mill crooks. 

 

These were intelligent hackers, who got access to his Smart TV and used that to access his home security system and completely disable it. 

 

Even though Akash knew about the risks smart gadgets pose, he never thought he would be a victim, or that his TV could be used for such a crime. 

 

Every day there is a new connected home gadget claiming to make your life easier and better. From our phones being able to play our favorite tunes on demand, to the lights and air-conditioners automatically turning on when we enter a room, gadgets are getting smarter and smarter. These days you even get smart toasters which are connected to phones. 

 

This whole universe of objects linked to internet and controlled by smartphones or computers is called Internet of Things (IoT). It is interconnection via the Internet of computing devices embedded in everyday objects, enabling them to send and receive data. IoT is something that is impossible to avoid, since it impacts not only the way we live, but also the way we work. 

 

As smart as it gets 

Imagine coming back home and finding your favorite food left at the door. No, you hadn't been to the grocery store in weeks, and hadn't called or ordered any of it through apps. Companies have now come up with smart refrigerators to learn our food preferences, take stock of supplies, and even order the food that is low on stock! 

 

These days there is an app or device available for most actions and tasks you can think of. Too busy doing house work to catch up on the day's news? That won't be a problem these days, with Amazon's Alexa and Apple's Siri ready to read out whatever you need. They even help you read and respond to texts without you having to pick up your phone. Simple things like switching on lights and fans when you enter a room can now be automated to when you enter and leave the room. 

 

However, like everything, this gadget dependency also comes with a host of dangers. Your refrigerator will know what food and how much of it you like because it stores your information. Your phone knows what to play because it records your usage. The lights know when to switch on because they can track your movements. So much of your private information on internet can fall in wrong hands. 

 

The dangers of IoT 

As the reach of IoT continues to grow, more and more devices, both household and workplace, now feature embedded internet connectivity. Even devices like toothbrushes and children's toys have become a lot smarter and boast of internet-related services. This may be to give users a better experience, or simply a way for manufacturers to gather information. 

 

In many cases, users are unaware of the full extent of internet capabilities of their devices, and sometimes may not even know their device is or can be connected to the internet to begin with! 

 

With the competition for smart devices on the rise, many manufacturers, in a rush to get their products on the market, may not even provide adequate built-in security from cyber threats. This then becomes a point of easy access for hackers to either expose personal data, or even launch an attack on a much larger scale. 

 

Even though government and other industrial bodies are trying to establish ground rules for manufacturers to abide by, there is a far bigger hurdle in ensuring cyber safety. This hurdle, believe it or not, are users themselves. 

 

The frequency at which users are willing to give up personal data for minimal benefit is alarming. Even in instances where there is no benefit per se, just some amusement, users have been seen to willingly divulge information. We have all been guilty of giving our personal details for internet games and memes, right? 

 

With the recent addition of drones, hackers have found an easier access into your homes. Using Wi-Fi transmitters attached to drones, hackers can take over your device to access any personal information. 

 

Another threat that a poorly configured device could have is to turn into a botnet. Botnets are networks of remotely controlled devices, affected by malware, which can be manipulated by hackers. Botnets can consist of hundreds and thousands of computers. 

 

Botnets can also help hackers take over your home network devices and use them to perform illegal activities. Cyber criminals who have gained access to your smart devices could spy on you and later use it for blackmail. 

 

How you can stay safe 

Even if companies and manufacturers provide adequate security measures, it will not be useful if users just start accepting the terms and conditions that pop up without knowing details. So, the first step to preventing any cyber threat at home is to be educated and fully aware of the threats we could be exposed to. 

 

Manufacturers should also hire experts to make sure that the threats and loopholes that are already known, from past experiences, are fixed and not repeated in new products. Certain Smart TVs come with the instruction not to hold any private conversation near the set. 

 

Users should be certain that the devices they purchase are safe from cyber threats. Consumers should be so attuned with the security requirements of their digital products that they immediately know when to move away from faulty or less compatible products. With smart gadgets becoming so popular in our lives and homes, cyber threats should not be treated differently from physical threats. I mean, we would never buy a kitchen appliance, knowing it has a high chance of posing a fire hazard, right? 

 

Source: http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/articleshow/61037784.cms?utm_source=contentofinterest&utm_medium=text&utm_campaign=cppst