With Convenience Comes Compromise...and Compromised Devices.
We live in a time where most or all of our household items can be connected and controlled through the internet. Our house thermostat, lights, refrigerator, coffee pot; any device that you can plug into an outlet, and then some. While the convenience of being able to remotely monitor and change these devices at any time is amazing, it also provides the potential to be used in ways you wouldn't expect.
When you sign up with a new website or other service online, you typically will receive a password that you have to change before you can access what they have to offer. However, when you purchase an internet connected appliance, the default passwords that come shipped are rarely ever modified once they have been installed. This can leave a hole open for hackers to take advantage of the same convenient access you enjoy to cause mischief or harm.
Is My House Spying On Me?
There are numerous stories of baby monitors that have been taken over by people that will record video or shout at whoever is in the room. One man stated that he got revenge on his ex-wife by remotely controlling their thermostat when she was away from home in order to drive up her electric bill. There was also a reporter that was able to take control of certain home security systems which gave access to lights, television, and the ability to open and close the garage door.
Sound scary? That was just one person being targeted!
Compromised devices can also be recruited to work together with other hacked appliances to amplify the attack. A recent incident took down a popular cybercrime reporter's webpage for 24 hours by having requests sent to the site by home routers, webcams, and other devices. This is called a DDoS, or Distributed Denial of Service attack; it occurs when a site gets more requests for information than it can handle, causing it to crash under the load. Imagine receiving a phone call and having another person join in, then 200,000 more people try to join in the call. In October, a French web hosting company was the recipient of an attack roughly twice that size.
How Can I Prevent This?
Most internet-connected devices will have the ability to change the password when you set it up, or give you a chance to change it later. Make sure to pick something you can remember easily, or keep it written down where someone else can't get it. Even if you don't have a remote controlled lighting system or a baby monitor, odds are that you have a high-speed internet connection, and that usually comes with a router that still has the default passwords enabled. If you can spend the extra time to secure your home devices, you make it that much harder for criminals and hackers to gain access, which helps prevent you, and others, from becoming another horror story of a cyber-attack.
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