There was once a time when the only device we had to worry about being hacked or getting a virus was the humble (relatively speaking) home or office computer. They are still vulnerable today but as we continue our lust for technology and connectivity, more and more ‘day-to-day’ devices are becoming susceptible to cyber-attack.
For many years now, in Japan, Korea and a handful of other countries in the far east, it’s not been unusual to find a fridge that is connected to the internet, or even an entire house or office-space connected to the World Wide Web.
In terms of usability, there are some huge advantages; the Wi-Fi fridge, for instance, will take stock of what you have stored inside it and will order or add an item to your shopping list when that product has run out. It uses scales, sensors and a Wi-Fi connection to do this, and most of these connected fridges can also provide email and even a web browser on their front panels.
The same can be said for offices that clock workers in automatically as they walk through the door and clock them out when they leave. There have also been huge leaps in remote office technology meaning employees are more and more logging onto office networks from external locations.
Then there is the LG House. The Korean technology company has, for some years now, been building and offering houses that are wholly connected both internally and externally, via broadband. Buyers can enjoy automatic lighting, heating and even home security all controlled from an App, as well as all the entertainment facilities fully programmable from the same app or via control panels inside the house itself.
The same kinds of advances can be seen in offices that clock workers in automatically as they walk through the door and clock them out when they leave. There have also been huge leaps in remote office technology meaning employees are more and more logging onto office networks from external locations.
It all sounds wonderful, and it is – this is progress after all, from a technological point of view – but there are those that are worried about this new trend towards all-encompassing connectivity. Most of those qualms stem from the prospect of cyber-attacks, as more domestic and office-based devices and appliances become connected. It may surprise many to learn just which every-day items are already open to a potential hacking.
We’ve already mentioned the fridge but hackers have many options to consider when launching an attack on the items we take for granted. In 2014, a cyber security firm, Proofpoint, detected a global attack a of 750,000 malicious email communications sent from a plethora of household items, including TVs, household routers and at least one fridge. This is proof, say Proofpoint, that there are thousands of seemingly innocuous devices across the world that can be coaxed and used as part of a botnet: several connected devices infiltrated and used as a network from which to send spam, malware and viruses to other, more information sensitive devices like office computers and mobile phones.
The very next year, Pen Test Partners also uncovered a flaw with Samsung’s smart fridge, which appeared to allow hackers to steal consumers’ Gmail login details.
With this in mind, it may be prudent to proceed with caution when it comes to automating your house or office. However, the dangers will likely be far outweighed by the benefits, and with a huge commercial eye now firmly concentrating on security and with all the research and development by companies such as Samsung, not to mention cyber security firms like Kaspersky and Norton, the future still looks very bright for those who covet ultimate connectivity.