Monday, October 3, 2016

World Full of Smart Gadgets

Internet Security: A World Full of Smart Gadgets
You’ve heard everyone talk about the “Internet of Things”, “smart cars”, “smart devices or gadgets”. This is just a description of the pervasiveness of computers in our everyday lives. These devices are now being connected to the Internet and this poses challenges to personal privacy and the security of the Internet.

Figure 1. Smart gadgets in a home (image by Steve Johnson, Jeff Durham BayArea News Group)
Figure 1 shows how pervasive these gadgets can become in our lives. Every room in a house will be impacted by this Internet of Things. 

What does this have to do with Virginia Tech? Well, today’s students show up on campus with at least 4-5 devices that need to be connected to the network. These include the University required computer, their smart phone, tablet, gaming consoles like Xbox, and usually a smart device like a smart TV or radio. Each of these devices is a specialized computer and unfortunately they’re not secured by the manufacturer. For example, printers, copiers and scanners have no passwords associated with them by default. Figure 1 shows how common household devices will be able to gather personal information (schedules, preferences, health) of the occupants. These devices can transmit that information to advertisers, manufacturers. 

Recently these types of devices have been taken over by hackers and used to attack other sites. Brian Krebs, a well known journalist, was the target of an internet DDOS attack that forced his www site offline for a number of days. This was in response to a series of articles he wrote about cyber criminals being captured. They retaliated by launching a massive denial of service attack against his www site. It's believed that many of the attacking hosts were “smart” gadgets. The new IoT botnet Mirai was used to launch a historically huge attack against Brian Kreb's site ( and is guaranteed to cause mayhem on the net.

Security experts have been warning the community about the lack of security in Internet of Things (IoT)/smart gadgets. Unfortunately, someone else heeded the warnings and took advantage of this knowledge.

Stay tuned for more.

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