Internet of Things: five unlikely hacking risks

From pacemakers to baby monitors, Davey Winder reveals five hacking targets from connected devices adnd the Internet of Things that you may not have considered to be a risk

Davey Winder
2 Dec 2013

The pacemaker

The risk: Network-connected pacemakers have been found to be at risk. Infamous security researcher Barnaby Jack - who sadly died before he could demo his findings at the Black Hat conference - documented methods whereby he could remotely send an 830-volt shock to a certain pacemaker model from a distance of up to 50 feet away, enough to kill the user.

The reality: Any attacker would have to not only know the victim was a user of that particular model, but also get within 50 feet to launch the attack, so isn't the most convenient method of murder for would-be assassins.

A vulnerability, however remote that it may be exploited, remains a risk. The US Center for Internet Security has launched an initiative to increase the security of connected medical devices and is working with device manufacturers in order to develop security guidelines.

The toilet

The risk: Earlier this year, security experts Trustwave SpiderLabs uncovered a vulnerability that enabled an attacker to exploit the Bluetooth connectivity (with a hardcoded pairing PIN for the Android control app) of a Japanese smart toilet and so remotely raise or lower the lid and activate the bidet.

The reality: Apart from being inconvenient, it's hard to take this particular risk seriously in any way, shape or form - not least as you would need to be so close to the said toilet for the Bluetooth connectivity to have any impact that it would hardly be an exercise in stealth. Hardly surprising, then, that the company making the toilet hasn't been quick to flush out a redesign.

Home automation hubs

The risk: Trustwave SpiderLabs also put some home automation gateways to the test, smart hub devices which provide smart remote management of such things as house lights, door locks and security cameras.

With a single gateway controlling multiple devices, it needs to be secure and researchers found one unit which could be accessed by simply using a secondary UPNP interface to the gateway web controls (in essence, a secure shell connection requiring no username or password) by hacking the local Wi-Fi network of the user.

The reality: This one is a little more serious, as hackers could use this one, if not to break into someone's home and steal stuff, then certainly to harass a target. With remote access to the hub the attacker gets full control of security cameras and door locks, and in the case of the unit Trustwave tested 'remote' doesn't mean in range of the Wi-Fi connection but rather anywhere via a secondary vulnerability in the cloud system also employed by the manufacturer.


The risk: Smart TV is here already, but just how smart is it? You can probably guess the answer is not very smart at all, but rather most likely a cobbled together mixture of hardware, Linux and the internet.

Sets from the biggest of manufacturers have been shown to be wanting when it comes to security. Take Samsung, which fell foul to a couple of security researchers who managed to pull of JavaScript injection hacks into the browser of one Smart TV and operate the front-facing camera for live video of the front room without the knowledge of the user. The privacy implications are, well, obvious.

The reality: The more features your TV has, the more opportunity there is for someone to find a flaw amongst them and exploit this. As soon as you start connecting a device like a TV, which in reality is just a computer with a monitor and a camera, to the internet then you are asking for trouble unless it is protected by the same kind of security measures as your other computers in the home.

This kind of connected device is, courtesy of the similarity to your laptop in terms of functionality, probably more at risk of real-world exploits than most.

Baby monitor

The risk: Yes, even baby monitors are connected to the Internet of Things and one user of such a device in Texas discovered they could be hacked when a remote user was able to control camera movements and start yelling obscenities through it.

The reality: As this family discovered, the reality is that IP cameras, and that's all this is, have been easily hackable for some time now. Script kiddie hacking tools are readily available in the usual places online, and controlling such cameras has become a hobby for bored teenagers.

Security is also relatively easy to apply though, usually it's as simple as changing the default remote admin settings on both your router and the camera software tools. In the case of the baby monitor in question, registered users could apply an update from the manufacturer to lock down the vulnerability as soon as it had been reported.

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