Cyberattacks exploiting the insecurity of the Internet of Things,and hackers attempting to compromise industrial connected devices are among the biggest threats to the UK, those responsible for ensuring national security have warned.
The joint report from the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) and the National Crime Agency (NCA), titled The cyber threat to UK business, details the growing threats to individuals and organisations from cyberattacks.
If attackers continue to turn their efforts towards attacking industrial connected devices, then it could have potentially devastating consequences. In a worst case, hackers could turn off infrastructure such as electricity, water, or heating by hijacking or overwhelming insecure IoT devices.
The NCSC/NCA report warns that "sufficient safeguards are still not in place to protect these systems that were never designed to connect to the internet", which could ultimately result in damaging real-world consequences.
The National Cyber Security Centre cites a cyberattack in Finland, where a DDoS attack disabled residential automated heating systems in apartment blocks for more than a week.
While the information stored on these is unlikely to be worth much for anyone looking to sell it on the digital underground, the report predicts that "the device and data will be sufficiently valuable to the victim that they will be willing to pay for it".
"Cyberattacks will continue to evolve, which is why the country must work together at pace to deliver hard outcomes and ground-breaking innovation to reduce the cyber threat to critical services and deter would-be attackers," said Ciaran Martin, CEO of the NCSC, speaking ahead of the agency's CYBER UK conference in Liverpool.
Nonetheless, the NCSC -- part of the GCHQ intelligence service -- believes that IoT security is likely to "eventually" improve, but the government needs to play a role in ensuring these devices are secured.
"Government also has a part to play in promoting smart device security and helping to develop standards such as the NCSC's and the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy's work to ensure the Smart Metering System has proportionate security measures in place," says the report.
"Malware authors will continue to exploit them to mount attacks and will continue working to find fresh vulnerabilities. The 'botnet of things' will present a serious challenge to cybersecurity for a considerable time to come," the report says.