Although companies are spending more than ever on computer security (Gartner, a leading IT security firm, estimates that over $71 billion was spent in 2014) you still need to be vigilant. And, with the advent of the so called “Internet of Things,” you need to look after your data and hardware in places and ways you never even considered before.
Most recently security researchers discovered what is known as the “Stagefright” exploit for mobile phones running Android operating systems of version 2.2 or higher. This includes the very latest version of the OS (5 and 5.x, nicknamed “Lollipop”) and affects over 950 million phones globally. In order for the hack to work the victim will receive a multimedia message that allows the attacker to gain root access to the phone. This means they can then monitor the device or take it over, potentially without the user of phone knowing that anything is wrong. Because of the nature of the attack it may not even be possible to tell that it has occurred.
Gaining spectacular news coverage is the hacking of a Jeep from a remote location while it was being driven. Although the reporter who broke the story had given permission to the team of hackers to attack his car remotely, he was still obviously shaken as they started to control the car and the speed at which it was being driven. This is because the car’s systems are connected wirelessly to the internet, and has prompter Chrysler/Jeep/Dodge to recall 1.4 million vehicles that are vulnerable to the attack.
With the increasing use of wireless (or “contactless”) technology in debit and credit cards, and even mobile phones, precautions need to be taken to prevent the devices accidentally authorizing transactions that you are unaware of. Enterprising businesses are now selling specially designed wallets to shield cards from scanners and potential theft of this type. In the UK there were teething troubles when the cards were introduced with customers in the line at one chain finding their cards debited rather than the person at the front of the queue for whom the transaction was intended.
Less importantly, but still indicative of problems that many of us would previously have never even had to consider, was a kettle that was found to broadcast the wireless key of the network that it was connected to. With many “Internet of Things” devices there is a risk that they are configured to broadcast information in a way that hackers can easily retrieve it from them, and many send out passwords in plain text formats that means that anyone intercepting the signal then has your security information and complete access to your home network.
Even though more efforts are being made and more money than ever is being spent to keep us secure, there are more ways than ever to be at risk from hackers. With cars potentially unsafe, our money at risk in the name of convenience and our phones perhaps already in someone else’s control, we need to keep ourselves up to date with hacking threats and do what we can to minimize becoming a victim.