The massive global cyber attack that wreaked havoc in computer systems earlier this month caused plenty of visible disruption, not least in Britain’s National Health Service.
But in the brave new inter-connected world heralded by the internet of things (IoT), so-called “ransomware” attacks could have as their source something quite mundane and yet present in ever more modern households.
In a not so far-off future, the source of a software glitch with serious consequences for the simple consumer could be anything from a connected coffee machine or refrigerator to a techie toy or an outsmart-you television.
Web-connected gadgets are becoming all the rage with tech-aware professionals.
But the mere idea that it only needs a hacker to give the software a malevolent tweak to send them on the blink with disastrous consequences may yet threaten the development of such goods’ popular take-up.
“Regarding last weekend’s attack, there is no risk for connected objects. That in particular hit systems running Windows …and today there are no mass-market gadgets with Windows loaded in order to function,” says Gerome Billois, a consultant with Wavestone.
“In contrast, there have already been massive attacks on connected objects,” Billois told AFP.
The Mirai malware strain made from hacked IoT devices including badly secured routers and internet connected cameras recently infected hundreds of thousands of poorly secured connected objects.
The idea was not to stop them from working but to transform them into zombies or botnets with a view to using them as relay stations for future cyber attacks.
Last week at a timely cyber security conference in The Netherlands, American wunderkind Reuben Paul, just 11, stunned an audience of security experts by hacking into a teddy bear via bluetooth to show how interconnected smart toys “can be weaponised”.