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How Computer Hackers Could Set Your House On Fire — Remotely

How Computer Hackers Could Remotely Set Your House On Fire

Image source: SeavilleFireRescue

New technology could allow cyber criminals to terrorize your home and possibly set it on fire in the not-too-distant future.

Security experts believe that hackers will soon be able to target countertops, appliances and even toilets via Wi-Fi connections that are hooked up to “smart appliances.”

Wi-Fi-connected smart devices will make it possible “for the bad guys to have permanent entry into your household,” Gunter Ollman, the chief technology officer for security firm IOActive, told Bloomberg. “As these technologies become more sophisticated, it opens up a broader spectrum of threats.”

Manufacturers either already have or are planning to bring out a wide variety of Wi-Fi-enabled smart devices and appliances in the years ahead, including toilets, refrigerators, furnaces, water heaters, air conditioners, washing machines, dishwashers, dryers, toilets, stoves and even countertops. Those devices will be computer-controlled and connected to the net but security will be minimal or nonexistent, Ollman predicted.

How Hackers Could Use Wi-Fi to Set Your House On Fire

Security experts at IOActive were able to take over Wi-Fi-enabled heaters and irons and turn them on and off. IOActive scientist Mike Davis thinks that such devices easily could be used to start fires or, at a minimum, simply waste electricity.

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Davis and other researchers were able to take control of WeMo Automation devices built by Belkin. WeMo enables homeowners to control appliances and other devices via smartphone apps. After hacking into WeMo, Davis’ team was able to control appliances over the Internet, monitor the usage of appliances, and even install malware.

Belkin has not provided any fixes for the holes in WeMo’s security, an IOActive press release noted.

In 2011, it was reported that a flaw in HP printers opened the potential for hackers setting the devices on fire.

Toilets Can Now Be Hacked?

Belkin’s devices are not the only vulnerable ones. A security company called Trustwave was able to use a Bluetooth connection to hack into a high-tech toilet built by a Japanese company called Lixil, Bloomberg reported. Trustwave’s hackers were able to open and close the toilet’s lid and squirt water at users.

“This push to make everything under the sun Internet connected, perhaps because it’s in many respects aimed at the consumer end of the market, hasn’t had much of a focus on security,” John Yeo, the director of Trustwave’s Spiderlabs research facility, told Bloomberg.

Yeo believes that it would be fairly easy for cyber predators to hack into refrigerators and other connected appliances, and he noted that manufacturers of such appliances are not doing much to educate the public about the vulnerabilities.

Some devices may contain wireless technology that sends data back to manufacturers with or without the owners’ consent. Hackers could be able to turn such sensors on and use them to monitor activity in a home.

The only reason crooks have not started targeting Wi-Fi-enabled devices is that they haven’t learned how to make money from them, Sebastian Zimmerman of the Chaos Computer Club told Bloomberg. The club is a well-known group of German hackers that crusades for privacy and security online.

“As soon as you find interesting applications for exploiting appliances, I’m pretty sure people will do it,” Zimmerman predicted. He noted that hackers didn’t start targeting smartphones until they contained banking apps.

Nightmare Scenario Already Here

The nightmare of hackers terrorizing people through Wi-Fi devices in their homes is already here. Off the Grid News reported that an unidentified man was able to make sexually explicit remarks to a 2-year-old girl through a baby monitor or nanny cam.

The man was even able to deduce the girl’s name and threaten her parents using the device. The terror ended when the girl’s father unplugged the device.

The vulnerability of baby monitors has prompted manufacturer Foscam to release software upgrades designed to combat the problem. A press release is urging users to download the upgrades at the company’s website and to protect their devices with a password.

What You Can Do To Protect Your Family

There are a few things that you can do to protect your family from such hacking. These steps include:

  • Make sure that the Wi-Fi on appliances and other devices is disabled if you don’t want to use it. Do this even if you don’t have a Wi-Fi router in your home because crooks outside your home could have a portable router.
  • Put together a strong password by making it eight characters or longer and using symbols in addition to numbers and letters.
  • Visit the manufacturer’s website occasionally to see if there are security software upgrades available. Download and install them.

Are you concerned about smart appliances and the future of technology? Let us know in the comments section below. 

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