Emsisoft Connects to The Internet of Things

fridgeThere’s an interesting new term floating around the web these days, particularly within the computer security blogosphere.  It’s called “The Internet of Things,” or IoT, and it refers to where we’re headed as a society – a world of ubiquitous computing, where everything from your air conditioner to your toaster comes standard with a computer connected to the world wide web.

What is the IoT?

Right now, the Internet as we know it is mostly an Internet of human ideas.  It’s a more place of written words representing concepts than it is a hard and fast store of numerical data.  In all, our modern day Internet of human ideas is about 1,024 terabytes large, and all of it was created by people typing, clicking, and recording things they thought they should record.

The Internet of Things, on the other hand, would be an Internet created by inanimate objects for inanimate objects, based on data gathered from the physical environment.  For example, right now there are homes with ‘smart’ thermostats which can be programmed to change temperature according to your daily habits or even adjusted remotely from a smartphone.  In the future – and probably already in the homes of people like Mark Zuckerberg or Bill Gates – such thermostats will be even smarter, and they will integrate advanced sensors throughout your home that will allow your HVAC to respond to the slightest of changes.  Taken one step further, this “smarter thermostat” could store its data on a cloud based Internet of Things, allowing it to sync up with any other device that is connected.

IoT Applications

Taken to it speculative, sci-fi extreme, The Internet of Things could potentially link everything humans interact with in their physical environment.  For homeowners, this would mean an increased standard of living at a decreased cost.  Imagine an intelligent refrigerator that could keep a highly detailed inventory of everything you stored, or a microwave that knew what type food you were putting into it and knew exactly how long it should be cooked.  For restaurateurs, devices like these could completely change the industry.

For technologically advanced cities with electrical grids, waste and water treatment facilities, planes, trains, and automobiles, an Internet of Things could lead to a revolution in accuracy and efficiency –  and this is exactly why the IoT is being researched by academics and governmental agencies.

There is, however, one huge caveat surrounding this bold new idea of an Internet that knows everything.  Namely: What happens when it gets hacked?

The Matrix, Skynet, and Other IoT Considerations

During the holidays, we talked a little bit about Amazon and its announcement about drones.  We brought this up because at its core Emsisoft is a computer security company, and programmable drones would come complete with programmable and hack-able computers.  Any smart device connected to the Internet of Things would be the very same way.

Killer drones are a scary thought, but what about killer refrigerators?  They might seem innocuous enough, but as it turns out devices like these have already been hacked and the results were less than harmless.  In a Jan. 16 press release, Internet Security firm ProofPoint announced that over 750,000 IoT devices were hacked between Dec. 23, 2013 and Jan. 6, 2014 and used as bots to distribute spam and phishing emails.

This recent attack worked because as it stands right now, most smart appliances are incredibly easy to hack.  Most run on unsecured operating systems protected by default passwords most users don’t even know exist.  The real problem, however, is that IoT hacking could go far beyond juvenile phishing and spam.

Anti-Malware for the IoT

In a world where everything is sensed and connected, government and industry would be more effective than ever before.  Unfortunately, so would hackers, criminals, and terrorists.  An Internet of Things has a beaming bright future, but also a much darker side that needs to be acknowledged.  The data required to run or ruin a city are one in the same.  Smart, responsive homes will only be as life changing as they are secure.  And angry home appliances could rebel against their human masters and attack.

While we’d like to tell you that we are already working on “Emsisoft IoT”, the truth is that we aren’t quite there yet.  But that’s exactly why we’re spreading the word.  Like Amazon and its drones, the world is years away from a true IoT of ubiquitous connectivity; and, at this point, you can still pretty much protect yourself from a smart appliance hack on your own.

The best way to go about this is to investigate whether your smart appliance has a user password.  If it does, it’s probably set to something like “admin.”  Simply going in and changing this password is more than enough to deter a present day attack.  While you’re at it, you could also consider disconnecting your device from the Internet entirely, because depending on your usage you might not even need to be online.

Other than that, you could always just unplug your smart appliance when it’s not in use.   This won’t work for the fridge, but it does work wonders on maleficent televisions plotting to take over the world ;)

As for Emsisoft IoT…we’ll keep you posted.  Have a Great (Malware-Free) Day!