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Fears are rising that the dramatic increase in cyber-attacks using ransomware could lead to pirates targeting intelligent household objects. With the first attacks having already occurred, the main players in the sector are looking to strengthen the security of these gadgets.

 

In mid-May, an international cyber-attack was launched by pirates using "ransomware", or viruses which block computers and then demand a ransom to put things right again. And while this particular attack did not affect what are known as connected objects, the latter are increasingly coming under threat from hackers.
The danger is that unauthorised attempts to hack connected objects in homes around the world will rise, with televisions, toys and other intelligent household goods being targeted.

Massive attacks already

"There have already been massive attacks on connected objects," explains Gérôme Billois, who is a consultant at Wavestone, citing the Mirai malware which recently contaminated hundreds of thousands of goods that were not sufficiently protected.


The aim of the hackers is not necessarily to block the objects, but to get in a virus that can transform them into potential conduits for other attacks in the future. Another reason can be to implement spying systems that record data, sound and images within the range of their processors, cameras and microphones.


Coffee machines, refrigerators, sex toys…

With connected objects gaining in popularity, the likelihood of attacks on them is rising commensurately. "If an object is described as ‘intelligent’, you can consider it to be vulnerable," says Mikko Hypponen, head of research at F-Secure, a Finnish company which specialises in this field.

 


Coffee machines, vases which tell you when the water needs changing, refrigerators, automatic locks, lighting systems, sex toys, cars and insulin pumps are just some of the ways in which viruses can worm their way in.


Televisions the ideal target


In terms of cost-effectiveness, hackers will not waste time with the exclusive end of the market. Televisions, on the other hand, are ideal targets since they are widespread, and have a screen which can be used to convey the ransom demand. "In the future, it is not hard to imagine attacks on connected homes which take control and send you a message by some other means", says Loïc Guezo, a cybersecurity strategist at Japanese company Trend Micro.

The virtual security sector is thus currently working on strengthening the security of intelligent household objects, most notably using specific ‘boxes’ and implementing anti-hacker functions.

 

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