The Internet of Things seems the stuff of dreams—a matrix of interconnected devices that offers dazzling efficiencies, automated “smart building” processes, and lifestyle conveniences that anticipate our every human need. However, for some time, technology experts have warned that the interconnectedness of devices could also pose security problems. And a few weeks ago, it did.
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On Friday, October 21st the digital world paused as hackers shut down access to large segments of the Internet by overwhelming the servers at a New Hampshire company called Dyn. The incident was deemed a denial-of-service attack (DoS attack).
A denial-of-service attack (DoS attack) is a cyber-attack in which the perpetrator makes a network resource unavailable to its users, shutting it down by inundating the machine with repeated requests and eventually overloading the system.
“This is a wakeup call that convenience should not trump security and that there needs to be a security and privacy by design approach to building these smart devices so that consumer data and business bottom lines are protected,” Adam Levin, Chairman and Founder of IDT911, told Business Solutions Magazine. A Chinese wireless camera manufacturer revealed that weak passwords on some of its products may have been partly to blame for the security breach.
As tech professionals have long suspected, putting a number of wirelessly connected devices in one area makes systems especially vulnerable to hackers. And it could allow them to spread malicious code like a virus across networks and cause widespread complications.
In a paper published last week, researchers from Weizmann Institute of Science and Dalhousie University reported that they discovered a major flaw in the wireless technology found in many smart home devices like lights, switches, locks, and thermostats. Researchers found that the wireless radio specification called ZigBee that allows devices to communicate, also allows hackers to take control them.
They focused on the Philips Hue light bulb, a smart bulb that can be remotely controlled from a computer or phone to adjust the color and brightness. In a video included along with the report, the researchers show how they were able to take a light system hostage—from a car driving 229 feet away and a flying drone. The lights turn on and off in an eerie SOS Morse code pattern, indicating that they’ve been compromised.
It’s clear that the Internet of Things has the potential to make us increasingly cyber-vulnerable. What measures do you think should be in place to ensure security?