Surprise! Internet-connected devices are easy to find and hack

While watching a commercial in which a homeowner remotely unlocks the front door for her son, I wondered whether potential thieves could do the same. It seems they probably can.

There’s a new article at Forbes.com, The Terrifying Search Engine That Finds Internet-Connected Cameras, Traffic Lights, Medical Devices, Baby Monitors And Power Plants. It begins with a story you may have heard, about a father hearing a voice in his 2-year-old’s room saying, “Wake up, you little slut.” It then called him a moron. It seems someone had taken control of the girl’s baby monitor and was manipulating the camera.

According to the article:

The monitor, made by Foscam of Shenzhen, China, lets users monitor audio and video over the Internet from anywhere in the world. Months earlier security researchers had discovered software flaws in the product that allowed attackers to take control of the monitor remotely or to sign into its stream if they used the user name “admin.”

Remember a time when you only had to remember to close the blinds? Now strangers may be peering at you from inside your home.

It seems there is a search engine that

crawls the Internet looking for devices, many of which are programmed to answer. It has found cars, fetal heart monitors, office building heating-control systems, water treatment facilities, power plant controls, traffic lights and glucose meters. A search for the type of baby monitor used by the Gilberts reveals that more than 40,000 other people are using the IP cam–and may be sitting ducks for creepy hackers…

[It has] been used to find webcams with security so low that you only needed to type an IP address into your browser to peer into people’s homes, security offices, hospital operating rooms, child care centers and drug dealer operations. Dan Tentler, a security researcher who has consulted for Twitter, built a program…that finds webcams…accesses them and takes screenshots. He has documented almost a million exposed webcams. “It’s like crack for voyeurs,” he says.

In addition, one security researcher states:

“There are 2,000 facilities on the Internet right now that if someone guesses the IP address, they can take over the buildings.”

Scary stuff. Evil folks can watch you, hear you, and take control of your internet-connected gadgets. So, if you can remotely unlock the doors to your car or home, the bad guys can figure out how to do so too. Unfortunately, it’s only going to get worse as more of our gadgets, appliances, cars, and everything else become connected to the Internet.

Perhaps we should be asking whether that is the kind of life we want to live – vulnerable to spying and intrusion in so many ways. Are the devices we purchase to make us feel safer actually exposing us to more dangerous situations? And do we really want to be so vulnerable for the sake of owning cool gadgetry?

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