The 'Internet of Things,' the idea of connecting all of our devices and home applications through the Web, is gaining traction. Smart locking systems and controlling your lights through a smartphone only scratch the surface of this technology -- but there is a price to pay for convenience.
While the idea of our coffee pot turning itself on in time for our red-eyed, shuffling steps into the kitchen before work is enticing, the moment you connect home gadgets to the Web, you also connect them to the possibility of infiltration.
You wouldn't have thought it five years ago, but this is what security researchers have discovered -- web-based threats that turn our poor televisions and fridges into spam-producing nuisances.
A security team at Proofpoint discovered a botnet -- a command-and-control system that directs compromised computers and gadgets -- which specializes in infecting home appliances, including televisions, routers and "at least one" fridge.
The cyberattack occurred between December 23, 2013 and January 6, 2014, and involved over 100,000 devices that were used to send at least 750,000 spam and malicious emails. The home appliances were controlled through misconfiguration and the use of default passwords, not sophisticated attacks.
"Botnets are already a major security concern and the emergence of thingbots may make the situation much worse," said David Knight, General Manager of Proofpoint's Information Security division. "Many of these devices are poorly protected at best and consumers have virtually no way to detect or fix infections when they do occur. Enterprises may find distributed attacks increasing as more and more of these devices come on-line and attackers find additional ways to exploit them."
IDC predicts that more than 200 billion things will be connected via the Internet by 2020, but most of these are not protected in the same manner as PCs with anti-virus software. Unfortunately, this leaves the Internet of Things vulnerable to cyberattackers looking to steal identities and command our things for their own purposes.