MIKKEL WILLIAM NIELSEN

Hackers are having a field day with cheap smart appliances

Smart appliances are great.  A smart doorbell will allow you to see who is at the door by consulting your smartphone.  A smart vacuum cleaner can be set to work, while you are at the office.  But there are dangers too.  Research undertaken by the Belgian consumer organisation Test Aankoop together with its European partners reveals how easy such appliances are to hack.

Smart appliances are connected to the internet. With the help of researchers at Leuven University the consumer organisations examined 16 appliances and discovered no fewer than 54 vulnerabilities!  Researchers were able to get hold of passwords or open a smart lock from a distance. They also discovered that communications between the appliance and the smartphone often is not secure.

All the big producers are now bringing smart versions of their appliances to market.  Less well-known brands too are offering their products via web shops.

Hackers are having a field day! Researcher Lennert Wouters of Leuven University points to the cameras vacuum cleaners use: “Hackers can break into your vacuum cleaner and see through the eyes of this appliance.  In this way they can see what is in your living room and sell this information to third parties.”

Raykube, a smart doorbell sold on Ali Express, can be hacked in minutes and your door can be opened from a distance.  Hackers can easily access the 360 Eyes baby phone that is available on a Chinese web shop and see into baby’s room! An Ikoh kitchen robot is completely open and not secured.  Hackers can take control of it and launch DDOS attacks like the ones that attacked and paralysed many operations in May.

Producers often fail to invest in security as that is expensive. Wouters urges consumers to stick with well-known brands that enjoy a good reputation: “Google the brand when you want to purchase an appliance to see it hasn’t enjoyed negative publicity!”

He also underlines the need for strong passwords.

Test Aankoop wants producers to provide their products with greater security and for the EU authorities to tighten up legislation.

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