10 Unexpected Things That Can Be Hacked

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Media reports about hackers have skyrocketed in the last few years. Targeted attacks on government websites, gaming platforms and streaming services have disrupted the lives of millions of people around the world.

Most of the reported hacks occur on computers or smartphones, but they’re far from the only devices that hackers are capable of exploiting. Anything that connects to the Internet or communicates wirelessly is at some sort of risk, such as…

10. Televisions

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Most new televisions are no longer simply devices that receive video through satellite or cable. Instead they come fully equipped to connect to the Internet, allowing them access to apps and services such as Netflix and Hulu.

Research from a number of security experts has shown that smart televisions are just as vulnerable to hacks as phones and computers. Malicious code can be introduced through programs like Skype, Twitter and Facebook. They can then use the comprised TV as part of a botnet, or use built in cameras to spy on people.

Another security firm detailed how an exploit in some televisions allowed hackers to steal sensitive information stored in cookies. To get the data a person simply had to be within radio range of the device. The exploit would even allow hackers to download personal files.

9. Toilets

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Your toilet is one of the few things that you’d think would be safe from advances in technology — just what kind of progress is needed in the bathroom department? Well, some companies believe that electric toilets are the way of the future and they’re starting to become more widespread, particularly in Japan.

Software security firm Trustwave discovered a problem with electrical toilets in 2013. Many of them can be controlled by apps that communicate with the toilet through Bluetooth. But they have hardcoded Bluetooth PIN codes, allowing them to be taken over by anyone with the app installed. This would allow people to operate a number of functions on the toilet, such as flushing constantly, opening and closing the lid or even activating the water-jet bidet function to spray high-pressure water out of the bowl.

8. Printers

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A number of researchers have found a way to hack printers. Using exploits in widely employed weak encryption, they were able to insert malicious code into the device’s firmware and effectively take control of it. The exploits are possible because many new printers now use Wi-Fi so people can print their documents wirelessly.

The researchers believe that by taking over the printers they could perform a variety of actions, including causing it to self-destruct. Some thermal chips automatically shut down printers permanently if they reach a certain temperature in order to stop the risk of fires, and hackers could cause printers to reach those temperatures by forcing them to perform the same action repeatedly.

Other threats include the possibility of hackers stealing information present on any documents that are printed. Additionally, once any malicious code gets onto the printer it could very difficult to remove as traditional methods, such as anti-virus software, would not be effective.

7. Car Keys

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Many cars no longer require a physical key to unlock the door and start the engine. Instead, drivers just need to have an electronic card key with them. The car reads the signal from the key and allows the engine to start and the doors to open.

There are a variety of ways hackers can trick cars into thinking they have the genuine key. One way is to simply brute force the six digit passcode used by some manufacturers. As only numbers are used this can be done fairly quickly with freely available software.

A more sophisticated method involves using two antennas near the car to boost the signal from the key so the vehicle thinks it’s in range. Another popular method utilizes a blank key and a cheap kit to intercept the signal from the genuine key, which can be programmed onto the blank.

6. ATMs

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A little known fact about ATMs is that around 95% of them run on Windows XP. This already leaves them vulnerable to a wide variety of hacks and security threats that have been developed for XP, as it’s one of the most popular operating systems in the world.

But the bigger problem is that Microsoft ended support for XP in early 2014. This means that they’ll no longer be issuing security fixes for new exploits, leaving those still using the operating system vulnerable. Because so many banks still use Windows XP it will take a huge investment and a large amount of time to upgrade the machines. In the meantime, this leaves ATMs open to a number of hacking exploits that include stealing banking information and allowing the cloning of credit cards.

5. Fridges

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In 2013, California-based security firm Proofpoint brought to light a global exploit of home appliances. The most bizarre everyday appliance that was subject to the exploit were refrigerators, or at least the new smart models that allow people to control temperature, keep food organized and run useful apps.

Smart fridges can be hacked because the vast majority of owners leave passwords at their default settings or don’t set up security features properly. People just don’t see appliances like fridges as something that’s vulnerable. Hackers used the refrigerators in botnets to send out spam, with the owners being unaware that there was any malicious code implanted in the device as it continues to otherwise run normally.

4. Baby Monitors

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Baby monitors have evolved over the last decade to become far more sophisticated, allowing parents to keep tabs on their children much more reliably. However, their increased reliance on technology has led them to become a target of hackers.

Some monitors output a signal at all times, and with passwords either not set or left at their default setting it allows anybody within range to access the audio. Models that also output video are vulnerable to being used to spy on rooms.

A high profile example of this came when a baby monitor in a two year old’s bedroom was hacked, allowing a stranger to shout out of the speaker and control the camera. Luckily the child slept through the incident, but it served as a warning to the parents that such devices are vulnerable if not better protected.

3. Car Brakes

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Cars are increasingly using electrical rather than mechanical systems to operate important functions. One of the most prominent functions that’s changed in recent years is the way you make your car stop. More and more manufacturers are using brake-by-wire rather than traditional brakes.

Researchers at the University of California and the University of Washington were able to exploit flaws in onboard computer systems to take control of the brakes on a number of cars. The researchers were then able to use the brakes as they pleased, including using them selectively on separate wheels to effectively steer the car. A demonstration from hackers to Forbes magazine also demonstrated how unscrupulous people could even completely shut off your brakes, leaving you with no way to slow down your car.

2. Traffic Lights

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Experiments carried out by researchers have shown that traffic lights can be remotely hacked. One exploit involves altering sensors on roads to relay false information. By forcing the sensor to report that a road is jam-packed, the traffic lights automatically adjust their default schedules to allow more cars to pass through junctions. The sensors don’t use any kind of encryption, allowing anyone to alter the information going to traffic control centers.

Another hack involves traffic signal preemption. Many traffic light systems are fitted with functions that allow emergency vehicles to pass through quickly. Although the sensors are encrypted, hackers are still able to access some older systems and alter traffic lights as they please.

1. Medical Implants

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Millions of people all around the world depend on medical implants to keep them healthy. With advances in technology, these implants have become more innovative. For example, pacemakers can be controlled using special remotes that allow the device to be modified without the need for a doctor to perform surgery.

Alarmingly, these implants are not very well secured. A variety of researchers found that these devices are vulnerable to a number of security threats. Because they use radio waves and other wireless signals to communicate with remote controls or computers, hackers can exploit weaknesses and take over.

Researchers are able to turn off pacemakers by replicating a radio signal and have also been able to change when implanted pumps deliver insulin. Both of these could cause serious health issues for their owners, and could even lead to death. Security experts continue to warn that more care needs to be taken to ensure implants are harder to exploit.

 

Want to learn more about hacking?
Read our list of 10 impressive computer hackers, or learn about some ways to hack and modify children’s toys.

 


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