As web-ready appliances are spreading to more and more diverse devices, experts are warning that this is creating gaping holes in computer and network security. The security of your desktop, laptop, tablet, and smart phone is on your mind. Now your washing machine and refrigerator may be next on their list - but is this really something to worry about?
Everyone loves smart devices. It's great to check your email on your phone or television without having to fire up your computer. Some of the newer smart devices on the market include washing machines, refrigerators, and ovens. These devices allow people to receive a text message when their laundry is done, get an email when they're running low on orange juice, and even delay dinner by adjusting the oven temperature while they're stuck in traffic after work.
Computer security is a growing concern for everyone. We all hate getting spam and nobody likes the idea of their washing machine or refrigerator being hijacked by hackers. However, there's probably very little personal information stored on your refrigerator - unless that's where you're keeping your medical records these days. For the most part, the threat of appliance hacking lies in large numbers of appliances using their computing resources against a single target. Think of denial of service attacks against websites. Another possibility is the use of smart appliances to host malicious or illegal content on the web - like phishing sites or spam bots.
While it's highly unlikely that a hacker could hijack your smart refrigerator and cause it to launch ice cubes in your kitchen, the possibility for exploitation exists. For years people have thought their webcam could not record unless the LED light next to the lens was turned on. Then computer security experts announced there was a way to turn on webcams by tricking users into clicking an authorization prompt on their screen. The trick is to create an invisible button and place it over something users are likely to click - like the play button on a video. Another group of security researchers announced there was a way to hack the LED light next to the webcam lens so users wouldn't know they were being watched. Similar exploits could be used when hacking appliances, causing any number of undesired outcomes. Photo Credit: iDreaminInfrared via Flickr.