Problems in a Connected World

29 May, 2012 | TechWebTdp

The Beeb has an article on cyberwar which then slips into talking about consumer products, I assume to highlight the point that these systems are also open to attack (as they're designed by engineers and not coding pros, that's what is says):

"In the home, fridges will automatically replenish themselves by talking to food suppliers; ovens and heating systems will respond to commands from your smartphone. Cars may even drive themselves, sharing GPS data to find the best routes. For industry, commerce and infrastructure, there will be even more reliance on cyber networks that critics claim are potentially vulnerable to intrusion."

The threat they fail to think of is economically-motivated hacking, could we see viruses that swap products to particular brands when your fridge automatically orders? This could be to earn the miscreant referral bonuses or simply benefit a particular brand ("My fridge will only order XXX bread"). Instead of corporate espionage, we could see corporate-sponsored hacking.

The company could deny it but a spike in sales from 100,000 households ordering an extra bottle of whatever, or switching their brand, before they realise they're infected would be a big sales boost.  How about automated cars that drive past fuel stations of certain providers (out of protest by eco-hacktivists or for commercial gain)?  How about changing your route to drive you past certain billboards or to take you down toll roads when they can be avoided?

Even if they just want to mess with you having three-dozen bottles of milk delivered each day is going to be an expensive inconvenience (especially if they know you're away).  Perhaps burglars will hack your fridge to see when your orders are suspended as a way of knowing you're out of town.

Very few devices are connected at the moment and each has such a different underpinning it means there's no easy way to target large numbers, but standardisation will come and hackers are patient regardless.