December 2, 2016

Can Hackers Use Your Appliances as Weapons?

This post is by Bernie Carr, apartmentprepper.com

Yesterday, a huge attack caused many popular sites such as Twitter, Reddit, Etsy, Spotify to go offline for a period of time.   The companies that were affected used a company called Dyn, which helps users to find sites online.  Dyn was a victim of distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks.   DDos attacks work by inundating a site with huge amounts of data, rendering their servers to be overwhelmed.

What does this have to do with your appliances?

Hackers used home appliances such as printers, refrigerators, security cameras, programmable thermostats, sprinklers etc. that are connected to the internet to conduct the attack.

First, the devices get infected with malware.

Once infected, the device becomes a “bot” that is now open to being used by outside parties.

In this particular case, the hackers used them to send junk traffic to the target, rendering the site unable to handle the immense volume.  The site is then unable to serve its own customers.

The owners of the appliances used have no idea their items were used to launch an online attack.

Why does this matter?

These same appliances that connect to the internet collect information about you.  We already know that smart TVs can spy on you.   Having your other gadgets collecting information about you and sharing it with others is a breach of privacy.

Can hackers turn your appliances into weapons?

In answer to the original question… Yes, if you have smart appliances.  If they connect to the internet, they can be hacked or infected with malware that can instruct them to attack sites, spy on you, collect private information and announce them to the world.

How do you protect yourself?

  1. Understand what you are buying.  Before you buy a new device, know all its capabilities.
  2. Once you do buy it, read the manual thoroughly.  Determine whether is it is always connected to the internet, or whether you can disable this feature.
  3. Have strong passwords.   Factory issued passwords are usually generic and easily hacked.  Set a strong password from the get go.
  4. Secure your home wifi.   Never use a default password that came with it.  Change your passwords on a regular basis.
  5. Reconsider whether you want to buy a smart device.  Do you really need that toaster to be programmable from afar?  Why do you need a fridge that tracks your habits?

You may find you really want that smart appliance.  That’s fine, we have nothing against the internet of things.  Being informed will help you be more in control of what your devices are doing instead of having others take control of them from afar.

For more information, check out these articles:

How to protect your fancy new ‘Connected Home’ from savvy hackers

When “Smart Homes” Are Stupid: How to Protect Yourself from Hackers

7 Safety Tips from Hackers

 

© Apartment Prepper 2016

 

Adventure for Two

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