Smart appliance market grows – security risks too?

Just a couple of years ago, many in the energy industry criticized the earlier models of smart appliances as something consumers could not possibly want — not yet and certainly not at those prices and with limited useful features. While critics still say the same things, many companies believe consumers are ready for smart appliances and they want to provide them.

Credit: Samsung

But at least some security professionals are worried about the possible consequences of remote control and Internet connectivity in those appliances. As anyone with a home or office computer no doubt is aware, hackers are able to take over a computer, network or router and use them as they choose. Over the past couple of years, security experts have found that, as an MIT Technology Review blog explained, the growing number of computerized, Internet-enabled smart appliances could become attractive targets for hackers too.

Key issues, it said, include consumers buying the appliances based on price and not considering whether they include features that will guard against security threats. That and some of the steps that may be required to safeguard those appliances could defeat one of their primary selling points: convenience. Appliances that are designed with security well in mind are still susceptible via open ports or expired software.

Early last year, security-as-a-service provider Proofpoint found what it said could have been the first Internet of Things-connected cyberattack that involved smart appliances — occurring between late December and early January. The company said many of the affected appliances were not adequately protected.

Proofpoint found what it described as “waves of malicious email” sent three times a day 100,000 at a time, and that more than a quarter of them were sent not by computers or mobile gear but by other consumer equipment such as “compromised home-networking routers, connected multi-media centers, televisions and at least one refrigerator.”

The MIT blog did offer one note of optimism: some regulators are aware of the problems, including the Federal Trade Commission. Commission chairperson Edith Ramirez brought up the issue at the recent Consumer Electronics Show and laid out concerns regarding privacy and security in her keynote address.

For more:
– see this background article

Related article:
Grid-connected appliances… still such a bad idea