Hackers Seek New, Unique Ways to Steal Information

By Tracey E. Schelmetic November 26, 2012

If you don’t use a computer or a smartphone, you’re at no risk for attack by malicious hackers, right?

Wrong. Just because it doesn’t look like a computer doesn’t mean it is a computer, and the interconnectedness of all devices today means that our worlds are becoming far more computerized than ever before, even if it’s not obvious.



Image via Shutterstock

Imagine the average hacker becoming bored with trying to climb inside CIA or banking networks and suddenly turning to other targets: the electronics handling car engines, brakes and door locks; the routers that form the Internet's backbone; the machines running power plants, rail lines and prison cell doors; and even implantable medical devices such as defibrillators and insulin pumps.

Imagine an organized crime group being able to eliminate police officers, judges or prosecutors by simply being able to hack into those individuals’ cars’ computers and causing the brakes to fail. Scary stuff, huh? It sounds like the basis for a science fiction movie, yet it’s a reality today.

A little close to home, imagine how easy it would be for a rival company to hack into one of your company’s printers. In 2011, two computer scientists from Columbia University demonstrated an easy way to hack into HP printers in such a way that they could view everything that was printed, and then easily view anything on any computer connected to that printer. (HP has fixed that bug.)

But many more remain, and it has been reported that many computers and peripherals in sensitive government agencies have no protection on them past their factory defaults.

The U.S. government is not unaware of the scary potential. In October, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta warned that the U.S. faced the threat of a "cyber Pearl Harbor" if it failed to adequately protect these systems. His comments echoed a warning CIA Director John Deutsch gave to Congress in 1996, according to a recent article in Scientific American

To help address the problem, computer scientists today are building guardians called “symbiotes” designed to run on embedded computers regardless of the underlying operating systems. In doing so, they may not only help protect the critical infrastructure of nations and corporations, but reveal that warfare against these devices may have been going on unseen for years, researchers say.

While the work has been called “very promising,” it’s likely that somewhere, a malicious hacker is already working on a way to get around them.




Edited by Brooke Neuman

TechZone360 Contributor

SHARE THIS ARTICLE
Related Articles

6 Insurance Companies Investing in Wearable Technology

By: Lindsey Patterson    6/27/2016

Wearable fitness devices are growing in popularity, Tech research firm Gartner says that sales will grow by 18.4 percent this year. Over the past seve…

Read More

Facebook Closes 50 Million Dollar Deal for Live Streaming

By: Andrew Bindelglass    6/24/2016

Facebook seems like it is ready to launch a fledgling version of Facebook Live in the near future, Osofsky said. "We have an early beta programm for a…

Read More

Twilio IPO: Bellwether or Blip for the API Business?

By: Doug Mohney    6/23/2016

San Francisco-based Twilio counts Uber, Open Table, and Nordstrom among its customers. In 2015, the company's revenues were around $167 million with a…

Read More

Brexit: The Whole World is Watching! Including Tech

By: Peter Bernstein    6/20/2016

It is hard to imagine a vote on something- even for those of us in the U.S. consumed and amazed by the daily barrage of presidential election year pol…

Read More

How Steve Jobs Would Fix Apple

By: Rob Enderle    6/20/2016

It is hard to see Apple in trouble. It has massive reserves and remains one of the most powerful brands in the market, yet every week seems to contain…

Read More