Internet of Things cyber-attack: the spam from your fridge may not be canned

by | Feb 7, 2014 | Biz/Tech

Vick Karunakaran
Biz/Tech Reporter

Spam email launched by cyber criminals through someone’s refrigerator is no longer an idea for the future.

The first proven cyber-attack involving the Internet of Things was recently reported by Proofpoint Inc., an Internet security service provider. Proof of such an attack has security implications for device owners and enterprise targets, the report said.

“Things” like smart TVs and at least one connected fridge were used by cyber criminals to send more than 750,000 malicious emails, the report said.

“It is the equivalent of getting someone else to do your dirty work,” said Ryan Burton, IT services director at Humber. The crime ends up linking back to the owner of the fridge, he said.

Any device that has an Internet connection needs to be properly secured, Burton said, adding Humber already uses multiple sensors to monitor and control temperatures around the campus. Even the electronic access doors can be controlled remotely.

However, there has to be a good balance of openness and security, said Scott Briggs, the chief information officer at Humber College.

“We are a lot different than how a bank might be set up,” he said.

An educational environment has to be open to the exchange of information and ideas, Briggs said.

Humber uses various mechanisms to protect sensitive data such as student information and periodically has them tested for integrity, said Briggs. Banking information needs a higher degree of protection than someone’s playlist, he said.

More than 50,000 devices connect to the Humber College network and 4,000 gigabytes of data is downloaded each day, Burton said.

A strong password is a way to safeguard against potential compromise, said Burton.

Humber student Madison, who preferred not to be identified, lost control of her email account when a hacker used it to send mail to her contacts asking for money. She managed to reset her password and get back her email.

Madison admitted to keeping one password for all her accounts.

“To be on the Internet is to be attacked to some degree,” said Burton. Humber routinely deals with the threat of malwares and spams with corrective actions, he said.

While the Internet of Things holds great promise for the future, the rogue fridge appears to have exercised its perceived right to remain silent.