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Is anything safe when even baby monitors can be hacked? I was going to buy the above system too... (via Motorola)

According to a fairly recent Cisco report on the Internet of Things (IoT), there are more internet-connected mobile devices on the planet than there are people. In 2010 alone, there were 12.5 billion of these devices and that number is expected to grow to a staggering 50-billion by 2020. As the number of IoT devices continue to grow, so too does the issues of security as just about anything connected to the internet has the potential to be hacked. The IoT allows devices to have unique identifiers with virtual representations of themselves in an internet-like environment in order to send and receive data pertinent to that product.


For example, ‘smart-houses’ can be equipped with specialized locks that automatically turn on a hall light when a key is inserted. There is an abundance of wearable technology (Google Glass and Sony’s Smartband, for example) continuing to hit the commercial markets that allow users to garner unique data on certain activities or even to augment their perceptions. Smart-tags can be placed on anything to monitor its location, pills can collect data on patients internally and a baby’s clothing can be outfitted with sensors to monitor its health. All of these examples are part of the IoT and will soon become the status quo even in the industrial and commerce sectors. While all of these technical marvels continue to enhance our lives, it’s a nightmare for security professionals. Every device connected to the internet (Wi-Fi or hard-lined) has the potential to be hacked and compromised by anyone that has the skills and at any time they choose. This puts enormous pressure on companies and security personnel to continually upgrade their defensive technologies to prevent unwanted intrusion.


Why would hackers even care to hijack a smart-home and what damage could they possibly do even if they gained access? Who would even consider thinking about acquiring access to smart-bands or ingestible sensors? These questions may sound ludicrous, however they do hold merit. A couple in Ohio found out the hard way as their newborn baby came under attack from an unseen assailant. The couple purchased a baby monitor with a built-in camera that the parents were able to monitor anywhere using the internet or mobile devices. The parents were awaken one night to a man’s voice coming from the baby’s room. The mother grabbed her phone to check the baby using the monitor’s camera and found the camera moving and not under her control. The man’s voice came through the monitor’s speaker, screaming at the child to wake up. The father then went to the child’s room and the camera fixated on him, at which point the hacker began shouting obscenities.


Unfortunately, the father unplugged the unit not knowing that doing so would erase the assailant’s IP address. While that instance is creepy and unnerving to say the least, it underscores the notion that if it’s online, it will eventually be hacked.  It becomes even more frightening to think that smart-homes could fall victim as well, putting our lives or physical property in danger. They could take control of our appliances, our vehicles or even implanted electronics meant to keep us alive.


In 2011 and 2012, popular New Zealand programmer and hacker enthusiast Barnaby Jack demonstrated the ability to hack into insulin pumps and pacemakers that have Wi-Fi connections and take control of the devices. He was able to trick the insulin pump into delivering all of its stored medication in one lethal dose and was able to assassinate a virtual victim outfitted with a pacemaker through electric shock using nothing more than a high-gain antenna and a laptop.  The process of hacking those implants even prompted former Vice President Dick Cheney to turn off his pacemaker’s wireless capabilities!  While constantly upgrading software’s security features is an unending battle for the companies that create those devices, it will only compound those headaches as more devices and infrastructures become connected online.



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