24 May Internet of Things and Cybercrime – the Perfect Marriage.
The vast majority of us are aware of the threat of viruses and malware on our laptops and computers. We take precautions and protect ourselves with anti-virus software. However, the rise of smart devices in the home and the Internet of Things has potentially opened a backdoor into your home network, leaving you vulnerable. Could your smart kettle be the weak link that makes you susceptible to cybercrime? Are you being betrayed by your new fridge?
The Internet of Things (IoT) is a remarkable innovation that allows us to be more connected than ever before. Smart lightbulbs can be turned on/off or to a specific level from your phone or even through voice recognition software using Alexa or Google Home. You can turn the heating, your washing machine or dishwasher on from the office so that it’s completed as you walk through the door. Your fridge can remind you to buy an item as it senses it has run out of it. We are truly living through an incredible period of technological advancement the value of which is expected to grow 5-fold in the next 5 years. However, there is an argument that security has not yet caught up with the devices yet, leaving them open to hijacking by cybercriminals for a variety of nefarious and terrifying activities.
Cyber attacks on a business are not new. Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, where a group of hacked computers called a ‘Botnet’ bombard a site with so many requests that it crashes has been occurring for years. This attack will only cease once a ransom has been paid. However as we all became more educated about the importance of protecting ourselves digitally, the number of available ‘zombie’ computers dwindled. This meant that this style of attack was on the way out. However, an attack on celebrated cybercrime journalist Brian Krebs saw DDoS return with a vengeance. The result was that no server would host Brian’s site, as criminals would bombard their server instead. A large proportion of the devices that helped create the Botnet weren’t laptops or PCs. Instead, they were fridges, coffee machines, dishwashers. Smart devices that don’t have enough security to protect themselves (or your network) from attack. DDoS attacks numbers have not only risen since the Internet of Things rose to prominence, but have become more powerful..
The world is still reeling from the global Wannacry ransomware hack that took place last week. Over 100 countries have been affected by Russia reportedly the worst hit. The ransomers demanded to be paid in Bitcoin, the blockchain-funded currency, otherwise, the victim’s data would be deleted. This is especially sinister when a major target in the UK was the Regional Trusts within the National Health Service.
Cybersecurity is undoubtedly a major issue that will only become more pressing in the wake of the recent attack and the threat of future assaults on our digital possessions. Experts have warned that all of new, shiny smart appliances are in fact, too dumb to have sufficient protection against hackers. The devices don’t have enough memory to store the required programmes to protect you. Additionally, many of them connect to the internet by default and use the stock code from open-source software, which makes it easier to hack.
“You can’t install a firewall on a baby monitor because it doesn’t have enough memory.”
Mercedes Bunz — Lecturer, Westminster University
For many consumers, price is the primary influencer in the purchasing process. This is because many don’t realise how vulnerable these devices are. For the manufacturers, the key focus is keeping costs, and therefore profits, to a maximum. This may mean taking shortcuts, or at least not investing too much time, in security or protection which is currently being seen as an added, unnecessary expense. This weak security is providing hackers with easy access to your network and more worryingly, adding to the ranks of the botnet army.
There are programmes and devices that can help protect your network from hackers and malicious software. Devices like Cujo can defend your smart network, as well as being able to do a host of other clever features. We’re not on commission, but there are obviously lots of other smart firewalls available and it is definitely worth browsing before you commit to your smart home dream and festoon yourself in wearable tech.
The Internet of Things is rushing forward in an incredibly exciting, and arguably reckless way. We are predicting that it will take a bit of time for cybersecurity companies to catch up. However, we’d be willing to bet that portable and smart home security options are high on many anti-virus and firewall business’ priority list.
It may seem negative and pessimistic of us, however, one way to limit your vulnerability to cyber attack is to limit the number of smart devices you have in your home. We’re not for one minute suggesting that you burn Alexa at the stake or have a purge of all your tech and go and live in a cave. However, it may be worth considering whether you really need a smart salt shaker (Answer: you don’t) or smart dental floss (Answer: you absolutely don’t). In their excitement about the internet of things, some brands have got a bit carried away and gone a bit loopy with some of their devices, almost just for the sake of adding the word smart in front of the product. If you can resist getting a smart everything, you could limit your chances of being a cybercrime victim.
The internet of things is indisputably an exciting prospect and the future possibilities are astounding. However our advice is not to wildly rush into getting a smart-everything, but to do some research about the device you’re buying and assess how vulnerable you could potentially be.
To help reduce the risk of your network falling victim to cybercrime, we’ve got a few tips for you to take away:
Good luck, and be safe. If you need us, we’ll be walking to a restaurant wearing our smart belt, under our smart umbrella, ready to eat with our smart fork.