With everything from fridges to kettles getting ‘smart’ upgrades, even your morning cuppa is no longer safe, as demonstrated by a hacked coffee machine that started demanding a ransom from its user.
A video uploaded to YouTue shows the Smarter Coffee Machine, which allows users to brew cups of coffee remotely using their phone, shows the machine spraying hot water, beeping, and continuously grinding coffee beans while displaying a message reading ‘WANT YOUR MACHINE BACK?’ accompanied by a bit.ly link to a website.
Sounds scary, right? Luckily, the machine was hacked by a friendly IT developer looking to prove a point about privacy concerns.
Martin Hron, a researcher at cybersecurity company Avast, took just a week to reverse-engineer the machine, demonstrating how vulnerable some smart home devices are to attacks. In a blog post, Hron points out that in kitting out our homes with smart gadgets: ‘We are creating an army of abandoned vulnerable devices that can be misused for various purposes such as network breaches, data leaks, ransomware attacks and DDOS.’
And while a malfunctioning coffee machine might not be your idea of a dystopian tech-nightmare, there are concerns that other, more important devices, could also be targeted by smart hackers, with US government officials warning last year that even some medical devices, like pacemakers, were at risk of cyberattacks.
Privacy campaigners have been raising concerns for several years about smart home devices like Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Home Hubs, which are proven to listen in on conversations and store potential sensitive data on their servers. According to Hron, household appliances like the Smarter Coffee Machine are particularly at risk, as many companies do not offer regular software updates to fix bugs and other issues, which could prevent these sort of attacks from happening.
Although a 2019 survey showed 63% of people found connected devices ‘creepy’, that hasn’t stopped people snapping up the latest tech. Smart gadgets continue to increase in popularity, with consumers spending an estimated $116 billion worldwide on smart home devices in 2020. But I for one am going to think twice before I put my caffeine-fix in the hands of the internet.
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