For the first time, hackers have used a refrigerator to attack businesses

Security researchers at Proofpoint have uncovered the very first wide-scale hack that involved television sets and at least one refrigerator.

Yes, a fridge.


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Smart Fridge designed by Ashley Legg (Yanko Design)

This is being hailed as the first home appliance “botnet” and the first cyberattack from the Internet of Things.

A botnet is a series of computers that seem to be ordinary computers functioning in people’s homes and businesses, but are really secretly controlled by hackers. The Internet of Things, is a new term in the tech industry that refers to a concept where every device in your house gets its own computer chip, software, and connection to the Internet: your fridge, thermostat, smart water meter, door locks, etc.

To a hacker, they all become computers that can be hacked and controlled.

In this case, hackers broke into more than 100,000 everyday consumer gadgets, such as home-networking routers, connected multi-media centers, televisions, and at least one refrigerator, Proofpoint says. They then used those objects to send more than 750,000 malicious emails to enterprises and individuals worldwide.

In the press release, Proofpoint explains:

  • The hack happened between December 23, 2013 and January 6, 2014, and featured waves of malicious email, typically sent in bursts of 100,000, three times per day, targeting enterprises and individuals worldwide.
  • About three-quarters of the emails were sent by regular computers, but the rest, slightly more than one-quarter, were sent by hacked home appliances.
  • Hackers didn’t have to be amazingly smart when breaking into home appliances. Many times they gained access because the home owners didn’t set them up correctly, or used the default password that came with the device.

Most homes are not yet a part of the Internet of Things, and looks like hackers will already be there to greet them when they arrive.

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One response to “For the first time, hackers have used a refrigerator to attack businesses

  1. I predicted this about a year ago.

    The exploit potential here is tremendous. As more and more devices also become wireless, they will also bring the additional risk of being independent of a network and it’s protections.

    Here at thesingularityeffect, we see this trend as being one that is of a singularity level event.

    The influence of current anti-snooping concerns will not stop this trend, as it is and will continue to be developed and marketed as “conveniences.”

    Additional risks involve the aspects of “Data Mining.”

    Whether done by your local utility company in an effort to conserve energy, or by your refrigerator to aid with your shopping, the data collected may be used in other ways.

    And then there’s the possibility that company’s (or others) might actually start to, (already have) install additional deices that serve to create additional threat possibilities. (Ie. The installation of wireless two way “Skype” type communications system and it’s supportive hardware to devices such as refrigerators. ) Potential risks here increase exponentially, as these devices can also be installed “without” the consumers knowledge.

    Morals, values, and ethics will also change around these trends. These changes (as with the cell phone,) will be of greater strength than perceived.

    They will occur without conscious independent choice or knowledge, and may influence areas of concern other than imagined or conceived.

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