The Internet of Things, colloquially known as the IoT, refers to handheld devices like phones and tablets that you use to get online whenever you’re away from your computer. Even television comes as a Smart TV now; IoT is everywhere. Look around your space and count how many IoT devices you can see right now.
With increased IoT usage comes the proliferation of viruses and threats that basic computer firewalls can prevent, but which devices like your smart phone often aren’t equipped to combat. Who, then, can access your cellphone, and exactly what can they find when they do?
The Android Malware
People joke all the time that their Internet browsers are listening in on their conversations, given how targeted ads have become. For some Android users, that became frighteningly real when news broke of the malware called Process Manager.
Not only does it record everything you say, but can track your location, see pictures, read call logs, and view and even send texts. The icon for the malicious app looks like a gear so victims think that it’s a legitimate Android program. In the background, though, it’s secretly downloading an app from the Google Play Store; the threat actors profit every time a new user downloads the app.
When the app starts running, the icon disappears – but Android users can still recognize the malware as a notification in the pulldown menu. Now that you think about it, has your phone been malfunctioning lately?
Amazon Alexa Gone Wrong
Devices like the Google Home and Amazon Echo are pitched as voice-activated helpers around the home, but they’ve been the subject of multiple hacks over the years including a recent vulnerability being dubbed Alexa vs. Alexa.
The attack occurs when a threat actor gets close enough to connect a Bluetooth device to third- or fourth-generation Amazon Echos. By pairing the device to their own nearby, a hacker can give voice commands and get the Alexa to effectively “hack” itself, by issuing the command aloud and then following it as if given by a real persin. Alexa is programmed to follow any command given that it’s preceded by the correct “wake word,” which is either Alexa or Echo, provided the command is stated at the right volume too.
This hack is dangerous because smart devices like these are often connected to other smart appliances, can make phone calls and purchases from the victim’s account, acquire PII and account information, affect finances, mess with your calendar, and even unlock smart doors.
Brightest Bulb in the Box
Unlike the others, Sengled designed their smart lightbulbs to delve into the user’s life. These lights connect to Bluetooth and monitor a person’s health. Aside from tracking sleep, body temperature and heart rate – yes, seriously – it can even tell if somebody has fallen down. It’s set to release in late 2022.
The announcement of this product came along with news of the company’s new TV light strips, which use a remote camera to sync colored lights to whatever’s going on onscreen.
Although these products haven’t launched yet, they effectively demonstrate just how far along smart technology has come. If hackers can track your phone’s location via Android malware, what will they do with a Wifi-connected camera in your living room and light that logs your every move?
The Internet of Things has its uses, both the good and the bad. As in all aspects of the tech industry, hackers adapt almost as fast as we learn how to stop them. What’s important is recognizing the depths of what information can be mined off of your cellphone or the daily habits processed through a smart home device. Then you can make more informed decisions about your online safety and just how much time you really spend connected to the world wide web – even when you don’t think of it as accessing the Internet in a traditional, monitor-and-keyboard sense.
Smart devices, like the phone in your pocket, can keep track of your location, texts, calls, photos and so much more personal data. Be careful about what you reveal online so your IoT network keeps working for you, and you alone.