Wireless Hacks: In Case You Don't Have Enough to Worry About

By June Campbell

Just in case you are running out of things to worry about and would appreciate a fresh supply, you may want to consider the likelihood of a hacker hacking into your wireless devices and meddling with the controls of your vehicle, your pacemaker or even your blender.

Yep, it is all possible – that and more, according to techno-goddess and talk show host, Kim Komando. The “wireless advantage’ is proving advantageous to more than just the consumer – and with some of these devices, the stakes are higher than they would be if a hacker gained access to your PC. Think “life threatening” in some cases.

Pacemakers

Pacemakers are life saving devices in that they intervene should the heart beat drop to a certain low level. In the past, surgery was needed when a pacemaker required reprogramming. However, many of today’s pacemakers contain a wireless feature that allows the cardiology team to reprogram the device via radio waves. In 2008, US researchers at Medical Device Security Center determined that “black hats” could hack these unencrypted radio waves and take control of the pacemaker. Once in control, the hackers could turn off the pacemaker completely or deliver an electrical shock strong enough to lead to cardiac arrest.

To date, I am not aware that this type of hack has ever occurred outside the research lab. The medical researchers said that the “hacking kit” would cost about $30,000, would require skill and expertise to operate and would only work if the hacker and the hackee were physically close to one another.

Given the above limitations, this doesn’t sound like a big threat to most pacemaker users. However, Wired.com postulated that hacks of this kind could pose a threat to prominent individuals such as government officials and politicians.

In November of 2009, Swiss researchers announced plans to investigate ultrasound waves as a means of preventing pacemaker hacks.

Vehicles

Contemporary vehicles such as the Dodge Grand Caravan and others come with built-in Wi-Fi. Should the Wi-Fi be hacked, the invaders would have the ability to interfere with the control of your vehicle – including disabling the breaks or stopping your automobile while it is in motion. Picture this happening during fast traffic conditions or during rush hour and you get a sense of the danger. Komando recommends turning off the Wi-Fi while it is not in use.

Not only that, researchers at the University of Washington and the University of California San Diego used a laptop computer and specially written software to hack into the controls of two makes of 2009 sedans. The laptop was connected to the on-board diagnostics port, a feature that is mandated by law in the USA. New Scientist magazine reported that the researchers turned off the engine and disabled the brakes while the car traveled at 65 kilometers per hour. The scientists declined to name the makes and models of the vehicles tested.

Although these researchers used a connected laptop in the experiment, it would be possible, they say, to use hardware that would allow remote control. They also reported taking control of a car using wireless signals and operating it over the Internet.

As with the pacemakers, no known vehicle hacks have occurred outside of research conditions, and to do would require considerable skill. Nevertheless, the automotive industry would be wise to develop security patches before hacks occur.

Home Appliances

Home appliances – such as your blender – can be hacked if they are connected to an automated home system. Komando points out that most appliances have security features that can be turned on or off – but comments that the consumer rarely bothers to activate the security. Her recommendation is to ensure that the all security features are put into operation.

As for the likelihood of hacking into a home network, a quick Google search revealed multiple web sites providing hacking information, tips and hacking kits. One even provides a video demonstration entitled “How to Hack into WEP Encrypted Wireless Networks.”

Hacking a wireless network is hardly new. In 2004, a man in Michigan pleaded guilty to various counts of fraud after he hacked a wireless network at a Lowe’s store with the plan of stealing credit card numbers recorded in the main computer systems. The hacker discovered a poorly protected LAN while performing random scanning for open connections, an activity known as war driving.

Other Wireless Gadgets

Other wireless gadgets, including Smart Phones (DROIDS) and wireless printers are vulnerable to hacking.

Once in your Smart Phone, the hacker has full access and control to anything in your telephone. Komando claims that hackers typically gain access in much the same way they do with your PC. It’s likely to be through a text message or email offering you a special service or APP. Use the same cautions you use on your desktop computer.

As for the wireless functionality of your printer, despite manufacturer stipulations to the contrary, these devices have less security than your PC. Komando recommends using a regular printer cable hookup at home, especially if you live in an apartment or a condominium.

Why?

So why would anyone want to hack into your wireless devices? I do not profess to understand the criminal mind, but I would guess the motivations are the same as they are for any other crime: profit, fun or spite.

This article was purchased and published by Fo.rtitu.de and is published here with permission.

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