Dangers of a connected world

A scene from the film 1984 showing Big Brother,
based on a novel by George Orwell.

Today, technology has been growing rapidly and spreading like wildfire. In this age of information, people can access almost anything through the Internet and share data that would reach millions of people in a split second. From phones to regular home appliances, everything has a “smart” function and can be connected to the Internet. But, have you ever considered that you yourself might be actually being watched through those electronics you own? Is the fiction of George Orwells’ 1984 turning into reality? Once everyone, regardless of their socioeconomic status, is under the surveillance of Big Brother?

In a recent blog article by Symantec, they pointed out several devices are becoming the focus of security threats as the Internet of Things (IoT) becomes more mature. An example of this is when Kaoru Hayashi, Symantec investigator, identified a worm lurking in the Linux system. The worm, Linux.Darlloz, exploits an old vulnerability in scripting language PHP to gain access to the computer through running a series of commonly-used usernames and passwords.

The Linux.Darlloz would also create a loophole in the computer that will allow the hacker to issue commands on it. In addition to this, Hayashi also found out that devices such as home routers, set-top boxes, security cameras and industrial control systems were vulnerable to this bug  as some vendors don’t supply updates, either because of hardware limitations or outdated technology, such as an inability to run newer versions of the software.

Another phenomenon is when the US Federal Trade Commission settled a case against TRENDnet, a firm that specializes on internet-enabled security cameras and baby monitors, regarding a software failure that resulted to hundreds of consumers’ private camera feeds were  made public on the internet. “The feeds displayed babies asleep in their cribs, young children playing, and adults going about their daily lives,” the FTC said

Clearly, there’s no way to stop the continuous development of technology, may it be for good or bad, particularly on the internet realm. However, you can perform these several actions, that Symantec security experts advised, to protect your internet-enabled devices:

  • Perform an audit of what devices you own. The absence of a screen or a keyboard doesn’t mean a device isn’t vulnerable to attacks.
  • If something you own is connected to your home network, there is a possibility that it accessible over the Internet and thus needs to be secured.
  • Pay attention to the security settings on any device you purchase. If it is remotely accessible, disable this feature if it isn’t needed. Change any default passwords to something only you know. Don’t use common or easily guessable passwords such as “123456” or “password”. A long combination of letters, numbers and symbols will generate a strong password.
  • Regularly check the manufacturer’s website to see if there are updates to the device’s software. If security vulnerabilities are discovered, manufacturers will often patch them in new updates to the software.