Smart phones, home automation systems, and virtual personal assistants can make life more convenient, but all that connectivity comes at a price. Hackers who target smart devices can invade your privacy, steal sensitive information, and wreak havoc on your daily routine. However, with a bit of preparation, you can keep your devices safe. Besides phones and computers, here are seven everyday objects you will want to make sure you’re keeping secure.
Regular fridges chill your food and drinks, but smart refrigerators have built in tablet computers that let you view your calendar, play music, watch videos, and write a digital shopping list. Smart fridges of the future may even monitor the amount of food you have, automatically ordering more when you run low. These features can make our lives a little easier, but you need to be careful with your smart fridge. One digital security company discovered that in the two weeks between December 23, 2013 and January 6, 2014, cybercriminals hacked into 100,000 smart household appliances, including at least one refrigerator. They even used the fridge's Internet connection to send malicious emails to unsuspecting recipients.
2. LIGHT BULBS
Hackers can target a variety of Internet-connected devices, from smart thermostats to locks. But smart light bulbs are particularly vulnerable to hacking, as researchers in Israel and Canada discovered last year. Studying a popular smart light bulb, they determined that hackers could remotely turn the bulb on and off, change the light’s hue, and turn the light into a strobe. Luckily, there are ways to defend against this kind of mischief. After researchers told one wireless lighting company about a security flaw, the company issued a patch to fix it.
Just like computers and smart phones, Wi-Fi enabled printers are vulnerable to hacking. Once a printer is hacked, cybercriminals can see what you print and potentially attack your computer via the network. In February 2017, a hacker wrote an automated script to take control of more than 160,000 Internet-connected printers running without a firewall. Although he could have printed threatening messages or stolen sensitive data, the benevolent hacker printed messages depicting a robot and computer, stating that he wanted to have fun and help people strengthen their printers’ security.
4. TEDDY BEARS
Toy companies are manufacturing smart dolls and teddy bears embedded with sensors that transmit all types of data, from audio recordings of a parent's voice to a child's vital signs. Earlier this year, hackers gained access to 800,000 customer accounts, potentially compromising the privacy of the voice recordings stored in the system. And at an international cyber security conference in the Netherlands, an 11-year-old programmer showed the audience how to hack a smart teddy bear. Using a single-board computer, the precocious programmer scanned for nearby Bluetooth devices to hack into audience members’ phones. He then hacked into the teddy bear and used it to record and play an audio message.
Whether it’s a standalone device or is built into your car, GPS can be a huge timesaver. But hackers can target GPS on your phone or in your car to track your location, send you to a dangerous spot, or even cause a car crash. By using a GPS simulator, hackers can also falsify coordinates to alter location data. Even more alarmingly, terrorists can use GPS jammers to block location signals, interfering with everything from airplane and ship travel to missile targets.
In 2015, two security researchers used a zero-day exploit to hack an SUV that was driving on the highway. By targeting the car’s entertainment and communication system, the researchers remotely controlled the radio, windshield wipers, and air conditioner. More concerning, the researchers were also able to cut the car’s transmission, disable the brakes, and track its movements via GPS. Automakers, Congress, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are working on legislation that will protect drivers, cars, and driverless cars from hackers.
Smartwatches help you navigate, communicate with friends, and track your exercise activity. But researchers have shown that hackers can easily target your smartwatch (and other wearable devices) to steal your ATM pin. Because the watch’s embedded sensors track a user’s movements, hackers who access a device’s sensor data can figure out ATM passcodes based on how the user moves her hand. Hackers can also install malware on the watch to spy on the sensor’s data.
Hackers can find ways to access your data so it’s important that you stay in the know. Discover will help you to protect your identity by monitoring thousands of risky websites and alert you if they find your social security number. And it’s free for cardmembers who sign up. It won’t solve all hacking issues, but it’s a good first step to putting you in the know. Learn more at www.discover.com/freealerts.