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News & Views from Alchemis

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Call us for a chat on +44 (0)20 7836 3678 or email Amanda Francis


Is that a load of spam in your fridge?…(or just new business for IT security firms)

The future is here! I Robot, Futurama, The Terminator and The Matrix are now all trying to force their way into our homes. Along with Talkie Toaster from Red Dwarf.

“You crazy deluded man! Calm down you paranoid fool and take that tin foil hat off of your head” I can hear you muttering.

However, a quick read of the news last week (OK, the link here is to The Daily Mail, but it was featured across a lot of other media too) had me pondering what the future holds for us in this increasingly networked age.

So, let me give you the background to all this.

Whilst the concept of home automation is nothing new, the technological advances and increasing availability of smart phones, tablet PCs, etc to the masses, rather than just the super rich means that all your household appliances can be fully integrated to communicate with each other and act as one happy, efficient unit.

Your boiler knows when you are coming home because your smart phone tells it that you’re walking back from the station. So it heats up the house just in time for your arrival, saving you unnecessary heating costs. Your fridge knows you’re running low on milk so it reminds you to order it with your online shopping, just in case you forget. Your shoes tell you that you’ve not walked far enough to burn the required number of calories after your lunchtime burrito, etc, etc.

This is all very well, except for one fly in the ointment…

What happens when the cyber criminals gain access to your home automation network? It’s bad enough that you have to constantly defend malware attacks from Trojan viruses intent on emptying your bank account through your PC, but now that all your appliances are running on the internet of things then unless you have adequate and ongoing anti-virus features integrated on all your household electrical goods, it would be like going on holiday for two weeks, locking your front door but leaving every window wide open (with a few ladders round the side of the house for good measure and a spare door key under a plant pot) and hoping you won’t be burgled.

Now I suppose I better get to my point.

This long-winded rant was inspired by the story of the fridge that had been hacked and was sending out spam phishing emails (coincidentally, Metro have put this story on their front page today too – but I promise you all that I’ve been sitting on this blog since last week).

So what happens if the cyber-criminals of the future turn a bit more sinister? Like, for example, Javier Bardem’s super-villain character in James Bond. He hacked the computers in the MI6 building to create a gas explosion if I remember correctly. Surely contract killers of the future could turn to murderous strategies such as disabling a carbon monoxide alarm and then extinguishing the pilot light on the victim’s boiler in order to poison them while they sleep. They wouldn’t even need to be in the same country to commit the crime, let alone risk creeping into a house like an old-school assassin from The Godfather. It could easily look like an accident.

In my recent blog I said that lawyers specialising in social media cases would have a bumper year for new business, because of the ever increasing blabbermouthed population of this country (or indeed the world) who can’t help themselves from blurting out ill-advised, libelous (or occasionally murderous) tweets and Facebook updates for the whole planet to see.

Well now I would like to add IT security firms to my list of people who should see an ongoing increase in new business revenue in the not too distant future. The more we network our appliances, the more openings the hackers will have to exploit and the more opportunities the geek brigade (no offence IT peeps) will have to plug these gaps – for a fee, of course.

And then, of course, the cyber assasin contract killers will see an upturn in new business… although that could still be a couple of years off yet. So, as they say in Crimewatch, don’t have nightmares.

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