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

LTE Broadcast, IndyCar Racing, and Blending the Best of TV and Stadium Viewing

By: Rob Enderle    9/1/2015

This last weekend I was at the IndyCar race in Sonoma to see Verizon and Qualcomm showcase LTE Broadcast-I also wanted to see the race. I've watched N…

Read More

Windows 95 to Windows 10: How Far We Have Come in 20 Years

By: Rob Enderle    9/1/2015

Last week was the anniversary of Windows 95, which was actually a life-changing launch for me. I'd just started out as an analyst, and Windows 95 was …

Read More

Microsoft Research Project Allows for Inexpensive 3D Scanning from a Smartphone

By: Christopher Mohr    8/27/2015

It is now possible to perform 3D scanning from a smartphone, without additional hardware or an Internet connection, thanks to a new Microsoft Research…

Read More

Amazon's Scaled Back Consumer Device Efforts, Dash Button, and More

By: Paula Bernier    8/27/2015

Word is that Amazon is scaling way back on its consumer devices efforts, having let go of dozens of Lab126 engineers who worked on its Fire phone, acc…

Read More

The 4K War is Brewing, but Don't Expect a Crowned Winner

By: Special Guest    8/27/2015

The hype around 4K Ultra HD video is growing and we're seeing it gain traction in real ways. From the NFL Network and CBS using 4K cameras to capture …

Read More