The Breakroom Microwave Isn't Spying on You, But What About the Smart Fridge?

By now you've probably heard the ridiculous claim that \microwaves can turn into cameras\" and that similar technologies were used by former President Barack Obama to spy on the incoming Trump administration. These allegations were made by Senior White House advisor Kellyanne Conway on March 13th, and immediately caught fire online.

When Conway was later corrected by tech experts who said this couldn't happen for a number of reasons (including the fact that microwaves have no visual or audio capabilities, and no 'smart microwave' has yet come to market), she changed her assertion saying she wasn't \"inspector gadget\" and was \"not in the job of having evidence.\"

But while these specific claims are ludicrous, there are real and present cybersecurity challenges smart technologies pose to homes and businesses. Below are a few threats to be especially aware.

A Chilling Spy Thriller?
The popular science fiction author Philip K. Dick envisioned a world of intrigue, shadowy corporations and hyper-vigilant technologies. His novels and short stories later became easy fodder for Hollywood movies including Total Recall, Blade Runner, A Scanner Darkly and Minority Report. Some technophiles have even credited Dick with predicting the Internet of Things (IoT).

Dick's paranoia seems less farfetched following the massive data dump of CIA spying techniques released by WikiLeaks earlier this year which included eavesdropping exploits for mobile phones and smart TVs. While initially shocking, the methods described in the leak weren't particularly dissimilar to techniques already employed by third-party advertisers and cybercriminals. Here are just a few examples:

  • Samsung smart TVs are used to record and share in-person conversations with advertisers, even when the machine is turned off.
  • Genesis Toy's My Friend Cayla smart doll archived conversations with youngsters, in what watchdog groups are calling a violation of children's privacy laws.
  • A Canadian adult toy company settled a class-action lawsuit after tracking its customers' usage without their prior consent.
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And the list goes on. Of course, tech companies in general are no stranger to this kind of behavior. Social media platforms are notorious for experimenting with their users and selling personal information to advertisers.

So, what's the problem with this? Aside from the skin crawling Orwellian nature of having advertisers and government agencies listening to you, smart technologies are inexplicably bereft of cybersecurity protocols. All it takes is a quick Shodan search and a brute force attack of default or popular passwords to turn your smart refrigerator in the office breakroom into a hacker's mole. The same can be said for Wi-Fi routers, webcams, in-office conference room systems, drones and pretty much any device that has the word 'smart' in front of it.

Thankfully, there are steps you can take to prevent this from happening to you. Start by changing all your default passwords with more robust passphrases. Place all of your in-office devices behind a firewall. Monitor your network for suspicious activity. And finally, take advantage of cyber defense insurance or business insurance from a reputable provider.

It may be impossible to stymie hackers forever, but you can protect your company by thinking ahead. Visit CyberPolicy for your free quote today!

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