Instant worm attacks and household toasters have been highlighted by security experts as some of the biggest threats faced by Internet users over the coming years.
At the Compsec 2003 conference in London on Thursday, a panel of security experts told attendees that they should be preparing for the day that their systems are attacked by an undocumented worm that exploits an unknown vulnerability at lightning speed.
"You have zero prior knowledge of the exploit and zero prior knowledge of the worm," said Richard Ford, research professor at the Florida Institute of Technology's Centre for Information Assurance. "By the time you have blinked and started wondering why the traffic indicator on your router is flashing continuously, it is all over," he said.
Ford also warned about the dangers of embedding Internet connectivity into household appliances such as toasters and refrigerators, specifically mentioning an online toaster that would, every morning, automatically connect to the Web and download the daily weather forecast, then burn it into the bread.
Although the gadget is intended for entertainment, Ford warned that such devices could leave networks exposed, because if they contain any vulnerabilities users are unlikely to bother patching them.