Fridge Caught Sending Spam

Thursday, 30 January 2014

The home technology market is reaching a boiling point, with the recent CES 2014 event giving us a flavour of how new innovations will soon be infiltrating every aspect of our lives. A recent news story has thrown something of a spanner in the works, though, after a number of appliances were found to be acting a little out of character.

US internet security firm Proofpoint last week announced that it had discovered what may be the first cyber attack launched via the Internet of Things (IoT). The attack involved over 100,000 hijacked household gadgets, including routers, connected multi media centres, TVs and “at least one fridge” spamming a massive 750,000 malicious emails to unsuspecting users.

While it may be a little early to predict a Skynet style technology uprising, there is a serious issue in the making. David Knight, General Manager of Proofpoint's Information Security division, notes, "Bot-nets are already a major security concern, and the emergence of thingbots may make the situation much worse. Many of these devices are poorly protected at best and consumers have virtually no way to detect or fix infections when they do occur."

The main problem seems to be that internet enabled smart devices contain their own internal web servers, which automatically complete programmed functions. Despite such automation making our lives easier, it gives little incentive for users to monitor the systems or beef up their protection. So when malware is distributed, weak security systems are quickly bypassed and nefarious programmes installed.

Fortunately, hackers aren’t the only ones to predict the weaknesses. Tech firm Harman has already been warning of the potential for cyber crooks to hijack our stuff, and are currently working on systems to protect cars from electronic incursions. This raises a number of interesting questions for the future of home insurance, with consumers likely to seek added protection as smart appliances become more common in the UK.

Experts are now calling for consumer tech companies to be more active in protecting their smart appliances. Michael Osterman of IT market analysts Osterman Research comments, “few vendors are taking steps to protect against this threat, and the existing security model simply won't work to solve the problem."


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