Posted 2nd October 2014 | By Ean Faragher, Operations Director

If you’ll forgive the blatant ‘Daily Mail-esque’ scare mongering headline I’m about to embark on more of a Sunday Sport story – my TV openly let evil doers into my home whilst I was out.

This is the situation, my TV is an internet-enabled Smart TV. Except that it’s not that smart, openly giving access to various network details (including my Wi-Fi security code) to the world wide web.  This is a huge security hole that allowed someone to get into my home and control my network, alter settings and generally cause chaos.

What was more concerning is that once they had access to my TV they were able to control other internet connected items like my Blu-ray player, router and other items. If you’re not concerned yet you should be, in 5-10 years time (if predictions are to be believed) we’re all going to be connecting our heating, electricity, light-bulbs, water and everything else to the internet. All of those things exist at the moment (seriously, internet Kettle anyone?), but like all technology it takes a while for take-up to reach a critical mass.

As it happens the only things I have connected away from the standard computer and router is the TV, DVD player and one LiFX lightbulb. However the hacker that got into my network was able to control all of those things. Imagine the energy bills that could have been run up if I’d setup a Nest device? What if I'd fully bought into the connected home, it could have been much worse.

A time for honesty

It’s come-clean time, I know who it was that hacked into my network…it was me, following some simple instructions not-so widely available on the net. It also required me to not patch the system with the latest update from the manufacturer. It also required me to know specific details about my TV model that aren’t easily identifiable without looking directly at the TV set. 

So if I’m honest it’s not that bad, it would have to be a particular set of circumstances for this to happen. However it’s not that far-fetched, imagine a business scenario where the TV was running in reception playing ads, the news etc. I could get into that reception and find that information out easily. It’s also likely that the TV wouldn’t be updated, let’s face it who’s making sure the updates on the TV are being made (how many of you have clicked the ‘remind me tomorrow’ button on your PC when it’s ready to update, now how many of you have clicked it for more than 7 days in a row?). Now I’ve created the perfect storm and can get into the network of that business – who knows what havoc I could cause!

Bash bug

With the recent Bash bug that you will have heard about security is becoming a much wider issue. This is a bug that has been at the crux of a number of operating systems for over 20 years – operating systems that much of the ‘internet of things’ runs on, but it’s not just lightbulbs, how about cash machines (actually 95% of the worlds cash machines run on an OS that doesn’t use Bash – Windows XP…that OS that’s too insecure for your PC!). A better example is cars – it’s highly likely that something in your car is running on a UNIX based system that's potentially vulnerable to the Bash bug. If we're honest your car was already vulnerable before this bug.  Let’s combine that with hacking traffic lights and cause utter devastation?

When you stop to think about how vulnerable we are due to technology it’s terrifying. Place that into a situation where a catastrophic bug in the core of a widely used software has gone unnoticed for over 20 years and it becomes even scarier.

Dystopian utopia?

Security isn’t just about stopping celebrities having their phones hacked. It’s about making sure things we use day to day work without a hitch – remember the uproar when Barclays customers were unable to make payments or withdraw cash for 3 hours! Imagine that for 3 days or more and affecting every bank.

The internet of things presents a beautiful utopia of easing our daily lives. Without placing security at the centre of that future then we’re heading to a certain dystopia where we’ve willingly made the bad-guys lives even easier, they don’t need to leave the house to destroy your world!

Written by Ean Faragher, Operations Director at ExtraMile Communications

At ExtraMile we try to take an hour out each week to look around us at what others do and to gain inspiration and to admire people's creativity. Each post in this series is one staff member's take on the world of web, design and things online. We hope you enjoy it.

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