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'Very, Very Vulnerable': These Devices in Your Home Can Be Easy Prey for Hackers

02-13-2023

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From a chip in your refrigerator to security cameras at your front door, devices like these are a part of what's called the Internet of Things or IoT. However, if you're not careful, this convenient technology can be a hacker's dream.

As technology advances and people become more connected to the web, we can become overwhelmed by what's known as the "Internet of Things". The growing desire to control parts of life remotely, demands a complicated system of devices, and that can be a hacker's dream.

'Something That Everybody Deals With'

"Up in this top you have a representation of the actual thermostat; it has your current temperature on it, and it also has your target temperature on it," explained homeowner Bob Womack to CBN News. 

He can control his home thermostat remotely through his phone. The thermostat is a part of the "Internet of Things" or IoT.

"At work I can get a call from my wife and say, 'Can you look into this?' or 'Can you change the temperature?' or whatever," Womack shared. "But it also, it has an ability to schedule when your heat is going to go on and when it's going to turn off."

"The Internet of Things is something that everybody deals with every day, so it could be a chip in your refrigerator," elaborated Karen Evans, managing director of the Cyber Readiness Institute

"It is anything that's convenient in your house like your Ring security system, the cameras that you have at your door, any of these types of devices that you've installed on your house, smart light bulbs – those are all part of the Internet of Things," she continued. 

'Sometimes We Don't Recognize' IoT    

From HVAC systems to kitchen appliances to garage door openers, the Internet of Things is widespread. According to one estimate, there are more than 20 billion IoT devices around the world.
 
Other examples include medical devices and cars with built-in sensors.

"Actually, it's so prevalent, and because it's typically best on embedded devices that we don't see – sometimes we don't recognize just how prevalent it is," said Regent University Associate Professor Alfa Nyandoro, Ph.D.

"I didn't even know until it was installed that I was going to have it," shared Womack. "But once I had it, it seemed like a good idea to be able to control stuff and be able to program – the programming is much easier on an iPhone than it is in those little, tiny control panels on a thermostat."

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'Very, Very Vulnerable'

Evans warns, however, that users need to be cautious when it comes to convenience.

"The easier you make it for yourself, the more convenient you make it for yourself, the more convenient you're making it for hackers to get into your phone, into your house, into your security system," she said.

Nyandoro agrees.

"The IoT is very, very vulnerable, the reason being that usually these devices were never meant to be on the Internet in the first place," he explained. "So having Internet capability is an add-on, a retrofit."

"As a result, they do not have the normal controls that (you) would have on a traditional computer like your laptop, your server, supercomputer," Nyandoro continued. "They are limited because of that. As a result, it's easy for hackers to get in and cause damage."

And once they get in, the danger can multiply, as hackers can target the device that provides the most access.

"You can imagine if someone were to get in to the meter and then get to the database that houses all the records of the people in their locality and so on," said Nyandoro. "By some extension, they can end up getting people's Social Security numbers and the like."

"So, all of them really need to be looked into," he added.

Protect Yourself from Hackers

So how do you protect yourself? Evans emphasizes password protection including changing default passwords.

"Any of these devices, anything that you buy, any small business – that you change the passwords and you manage these passwords," she advised.

Other tips include keeping the software updated, making sure you're "cyber ready", like being on the lookout for phony emails, and knowing what Internet of Things devices you actually have.

Womack says having an IoT thermostat did make him leery of hackers, but he believes it's worth the risk if you're on the defensive.

"So far I haven't had any kind of attack," he shared. "I've got double protection, password protection and encryption, and my router is protected by an encryption system, too."

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About The Author

Mark
Martin

Mark Martin currently serves as a reporter and anchor at CBN News, reporting on all kinds of issues, from military matters to alternative fuels. Mark has reported internationally in the Middle East. He traveled to Bahrain and covered stories on the aircraft carrier, the U.S.S. Dwight D. Eisenhower. Mark also anchors CBN News Midday on the CBN Newschannel and fills in on the anchor desk for CBN News' Newswatch and The 700 Club. Prior to CBN News, Mark worked at KFSM-TV, the CBS affiliate in Fort Smith, Arkansas. There he served as a weekend morning producer, before being promoted to general