Expert Warns Public Could Be 'Under Siege' From Hackers Who Can Hold Your Home To Ransom

25/02/2016 13:21 | Updated 25 February 2016

A security expert has warned that web-connected devices such as webcams, routers and now 'Internet of Things' devices like fridges and smart thermostats are dangerously unprotected from hackers.

internet of things

Allen Scott, the head of strategic partnerships, digital home protection for security company F Secure explained to the Huffington Post UK that the new wave of 'internet of things' devices could leave people 'under siege' from criminals that "want to find an easy way to make cash."

"What happens if your lighting in your house gets compromised?" asks Scott. "That may sound far fetched but that’s exactly what’s happening, people are taking data, encrypting it and then holding it to ransom."

philips hue

Philips Hue is a smartphone-controlled lighting system that can be connected to TVs and even music systems via WiFi.

Scott is referring to one of the most popular forms of cybercrime during which hackers gain access to a secure part of a person's life and then encrypt it, demanding a ransom for the information to then be unlocked.

The problem has become so severe that just last week a hospital in Los Angeles was forced to pay over £12,000 in ransom to hackers after their IT systems were taken over.

samsung family hub

Samsung's new Family Hub Refrigerator has a 21-inch screen and connects via WiFI to the internet.

The 'Internet of Things' essentially describes a new type of home product that now has internet connectivity, allowing it to update itself, be controlled remotely via smartphone or tap into millions of other devices to make itself more intelligent.

Currently these devices range from smart thermostats which let you remotely control your home's heating to remotely controlled lighting to ovens which can be pre-set to turn on using a smartphone.

nest thermostat

The Nest is a powerful tool that can help you control your home's heating using the 'cloud'.

There are even a range of 'smart locks' which forgo the conventional key, instead utilising the fingerprint sensor on your phone to allow access to your house.

Scott warns that these new gadgets present hackers with a lucrative new source of income.

"They’re no longer kids in bedrooms hacking into the NATO website because they can do it, or challenging each other at school, you can make more money from hacking with ransomware"

So do we avoid buying IoT devices? As Scott points out, their availability is increasing at an alarming rate.

"Every technology device that’ll be shipped in four of five years time will have an IOT connector in it, it still astonishes me that you can go to eBay and buy pretty sophisticated technology for under a £10. Without knowing it you’ve just bought yourself an IoT."

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His colleague Sean Sullivan, a security advisor at the company predicts that this could then snowball into something far more serious.

"Many of us will have it [an IoT device] just because it comes included by default. And if things don’t improve, it is potentially a very large problem (It’s difficult to see security improving as the price of the technology also falls.)"

"It will be an Internet of Everything. That opens a pretty big door."

If your fridge being attacked by hackers wasn't enough, much of the software that's loaded onto these devices already have huge vulnerabilities.

Only last week Google's engineers discovered a huge flaw in the software that's pre-loaded onto routers, Smart TVs and more.

Google's engineers warned that "remote code execution was possible, but not straightforward."

smart tv

Smart TVs are now increasingly reliant on internet connections to provide software updates and onDemand services like Netflix.

So how does a person protect themselves? Well passwords is the first step. As many security experts will tell you, the weakest point in any home is you, the human.

By creating strong, unhackable passwords for your services and routers you can create at the very least, a large hurdle that hackers need to overcome before taking over your WiFi network.

Then there's products like F Secure's SENSE, a router that effectively creates an invisible 'shield' around your home while providing fast, secure internet.

f secure sense

The SENSE is an early adopter's product, but it can protect the 'smart home' of the future.

Every single device from your lighting to your fridge is then connected to the SENSE. Any incoming traffic is then closely monitored by SENSE and by F Secure's 'Security Cloud'.

Where things get really impressive though is that all of this is then controlled via a smartphone app. You'll be able to see how protected your home is on the screen and even monitor the attempted attacks.

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