12 Days of Hack-mas

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2018 was a wild ride when it came to cybersecurity. While some hackers worked to source financial data, others garnered personal information to personalize cyberattacks. Some worked to get us to download malware in order to help them mine cryptocurrency or harness our devices to join their botnets. The ways in which they exact their attacks are becoming more sophisticated and harder to detect. 2019 shows no sign of slowing down when it comes to the sophistication and multitude of cyberattacks targeted toward consumers.

Between the apps and websites we use every day, in addition to the numerous connected devices we continue to add our homes, there are a more ways than ever in which our cybersecurity can be compromised. Let’s take a look at 12 common, connected devices that are vulnerable to attacks –most of which our friends at the “Hackable?” podcast have demonstrated– and what we can do to protect what matters. This way, as we move into the new year, security is top of mind.

Connected Baby Monitors

When you have a child, security and safety fuels the majority of your thoughts. That’s why it’s terrifying to think that a baby monitor, meant to give you peace of mind, could get hacked. Our own “Hackable?” team illustrated exactly how easy it is. They performed a “man-in-the-middle” attack to intercept data from an IoT baby monitor. But the team didn’t stop there; next they overloaded the device with commands and completely crashed the system without warning a parent, potentially putting a baby in danger. If you’re a parent looking to bring baby tech into your home, always be on the lookout for updates, avoid knockoffs or brands you’re not familiar with, and change your passwords regularly.

Smart TVs

With a click of a button or by the sound of our voice, our favorite shows will play, pause, rewind ten seconds, and more – all thanks to smart TVs and streaming devices. But is there a sinister side? Turns out, there is. Some smart TVs can be controlled by cybercriminals by exploiting easy-to-find security flaws. By infecting a computer or mobile device with malware, a cybercriminal could gain control of your smart TV if your devices are using the same Wi-Fi. To prevent an attack, consider purchasing devices from mainstream brands that keep security in mind, and update associated software and apps regularly.

Home Wi-Fi Routers

Wi-Fi is the lifeblood of the 21st century; it’s become a necessity rather than a luxury. But your router is also a cybercriminal’s window into your home. Especially if you have numerous IoT devices hooked up to the same Wi-Fi, a hacker that successfully cracks into your network can get ahold of passwords and personal information, all of which can be used to gain access to your accounts, and launch spear phishing attacks against you to steal your identity or worse. Cybercriminals do this by exploiting weaknesses in your home network. To stay secure, consider a comprehensive security solution like McAfee® Secure Home Platform.

Health Devices and Apps

Digital health is set to dominate the consumer market in the next few years. Ranging from apps to hardware, the ways in which our health is being digitized varies, and so do the types of attacks that can be orchestrated. For example, on physical devices like pacemakers, malware can be implanted directly on to the device, enabling a hacker to control it remotely and inflict real harm to patients. When it comes to apps like pedometers, a hacker could source information like your physical location or regular routines.  Each of these far from benign scenarios highlight the importance of cybersecurity as the health market becomes increasingly reliant on technology and connectivity.

Smart Speakers

It seems like everyone nowadays has at least one smart speaker in their home. However, these speakers are always listening in, and if hacked, could be exploited by cybercriminals through spear phishing attacks. This can be done by spoofing actual websites which trick users into thinking that they are receiving a message from an official source. But once the user clicks on the email, they’ve just given a cybercriminal access to their home network, and by extension, all devices connected to that network too, smart speakers and all. To stay secure, start with protection on your router that extends to your network, change default passwords, and check for built-in security features.

Voice Assistants

Like smart speakers, voice assistants are always listening and, if hacked, could gain a wealth of information about you. But voice assistants are also often used as a central command hub, connecting other devices to them (including other smart speakers, smart lights or smart locks). Some people opt to connect accounts like food delivery, driver services, and shopping lists that use credit cards. If hacked, someone could gain access to your financial information or even access to your home. To keep cybercriminals out, consider a comprehensive security system, know which apps you can trust, and always keep your software up to date.

Connected Cars

Today, cars are essentially computers on wheels. Between backup cameras, video screens, GPS systems, and Wi-Fi networks, they have more electronics stacked in them than ever. The technology makes the experience smoother, but if it has a digital heartbeat, it’s hackable. In fact, an attacker can take control of your car a couple of ways; either by physically implanting a tiny device that grants access to your car through a phone, or by leveraging a black box tool and  your car’s diagnostic port completely remotely. Hacks can range anywhere from cranking the radio up to cutting the transmission or disabling the breaks. To stay secure, limit connectivity between your mobile devices and a car when possible, as phones are exposed to risks every day, and any time you connect it to your car, you put it at risk, too.

Smart Thermostats

A smart thermostat can regulate your home’s temperature and save you money by learning your preferences. But what if your friendly temperature regulator turned against you? If you don’t change your default, factory-set password and login information, a hacker could take control of your device and make it join a botnet

Connected Doorbells

When we think high-tech, the first thing that comes to mind is most likely not a doorbell. But connected doorbells are becoming more popular, especially as IoT devices are more widely adopted in our homes. So how can these devices be hacked, exactly? By sending an official-looking email that requests that a device owner download the doorbell’s app, the user unwittingly gave full access to the unwelcome guest. From there, the hackers could access call logs, the number of devices available, and even video files from past calls. Take heed from this hack; when setting up a new device, watch out for phishing emails and always make sure that an app is legitimate before you download it.

Smart Pet Cameras

We all love our furry friends and when we have to leave them behind as we head out the door. And it’s comforting to know that we can keep an eye on them, even give them the occasional treat through pet cameras. But this pet-nology can be hacked into by cybercriminals to see what’s get an inside look at your home, as proven by the “Hackable?” crew. Through a device’s app, a white-hat hacker was able to access the product’s database and was able to download photos and videos of other device owners. Talk about creepy. To keep prying eyes out of your private photos, get a comprehensive security solution for your home network and devices, avoid checking on your pet from unsecured Wi-Fi, and do your research on smart products you purchase for your pets.

Cell Phones

Mobile phones are one of the most vulnerable devices simply because they go everywhere you go. They essentially operate as a personal remote control to your digital life. In any given day, we access financial accounts, confirm doctor’s appointments and communicate with family and friends. That’s why is shocking to know how surprisingly easy it is for cybercriminals to access the treasure trove of personal data on your cell phone. Phones can be compromised a variety of ways; but here are a few: accessing your personal information by way of public Wi-Fi (say, while you’re at an airport), implanting a bug, leveraging a flaw in the operating system, or by infecting your device with malware by way of a bad link while surfing the web or browsing email.  Luckily, you can help secure your device by using comprehensive security such as McAfee Total Protection, or by leveraging a VPN (virtual private network) if you find yourself needing to use public Wi-Fi.

Virtual Reality Headsets

Once something out of a science fiction, virtual reality (VR) is now a high-tech reality for many. Surprisingly, despite being built on state of the art technology, VR is quite hackable. As an example, though common and easy-to-execute tactics like phishing to prompt someone to download malware, white-hat hackers were able to infect a linked computer and execute a command and control interface that manipulated the VR experience and disorientated the user. While this attack isn’t common yet, it could certainly start to gain traction as more VR headsets make their way into homes. To stay secure, be picky and only download software from reputable sources.

This is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to hackable, everyday items. And while there’s absolutely no doubt that IoT devices certainly make life easier, what it all comes down to is control versus convenience. As we look toward 2019, we should ask ourselves, “what do we value more?”

Stay up-to-date on the latest trends by subscribing to our podcast, “Hackable?” and follow us on Twitter or Facebook.

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