Why your toaster may be part of an attack on Google one day
One phenomenon that has always intrigued me is hypnotism, says Larry Bellehumeur of Novotech Technologies. It always seemed amazing and confusing to me that so-called “normal” people can have their common sense overridden to the point that theyare willing to do things simply when instructed to…often to hilarious results during shows.
Hypnotists are usually charismatic experts in human manipulation, but even then, they tend to know how to find the most vulnerable among us to make their job easier. Many computer hackers use the exact same logic when creating attacks. They go after the vulnerable “devices” and get them to do things on their behalf…often without the owner knowing.
Like being hypnotised, most people think that this can never happen to one of their devices. However, your devices may be compromised right now, even when they appear to be working normally…
IoT is a god-send for hackers
When you consider there are billions of devices – some with a surprising amount of available computing power, many sitting unprotected on the Internet and still many more behind corporate firewalls – it is almost too good to be true.
Think about it. A new Smart TV likely has computing power that would rival PCs of only a few years ago and many of them are just sitting there. Even when they are off, they are often still getting enough power to be functional. Now, multiply that by millions of devices and we aren’t even talking about all of the other devices. Baby monitors, garage door openers, fitness trackers and even toasters could, in theory, be used as part of the attack.
How do you defend yourself? First, turn on any security options that are available. Whether it is restricting access to the device, changing the default broadcast channel and most importantly, changing the default password to a very strong one.
Another thing you can do, which will even help your power bill, is to completely turn off devices that do not need to be on. To help, I have a number of my devices in the kitchen attached to a power bar…so when they are not in use, they are not able to be accessed (which helps to reduce the power draw).
The Bottom line
Ultimately, hackers will always find a way to hack into key resources, whether for personal gain or other reasons. The goal here is to ensure that people are not willingly making their job easier for them. As we continue to add to the number of IoT devices by billions each year, it is imperative that we take steps to increase both our security, and the security of the Internet itself. The recent attacks on Twitter are only the beginning, I am afraid…
The author of this blog is Larry Bellehumeur, M2M / IoT Consultant, Novotech Technologies.