Technologica: Home is where the Hack is

It’s 2020 and you have a baby, or maybe you adopted, or maybe they belong to a loved one of yours and you are just helping out by babysitting for a while.  You have a baby monitor and there is a baby on the other end who I am presuming you have an obligation to look after. The monitor is one of those walkie-talkie like things that lets you watch TV, sit on Facebook and listen to the baby sleep all at the same time. Not that Facebook is going to be the same in five years, if it is still around. It probably won’t even be the same next week.

You get up to use the bathroom. As you stand the lights brighten and the TV pauses, thanks to smart-sensors running off of an application on your watch. As you walk down the hall, you pause to check in on the baby, only to hear another voice in the room. Worried that someone else is in there, you rush in and find that the mystery voice is coming from the baby monitor. As soon as the voice hears you come into the room it advises that you might want to change your wifi password as well as put your fridge onto a different network – apparently the manufacturers were more focussed on functionality of the smart-fridge then the security of it. You’re not quite sure how someone does that, but you are certain that you don’t want a stranger talking to the baby while it sleeps.

Luckily for us, cyber-criminals and cyber-security researchers are revealing more and more flaws in seemingly simplistic devices (although quite cool), which is forcing manufacturers and developers to consider security before they send out the key to gaining access to your internal network and devices. Unfortunately most of us have no clue that this is even possible, and that all of the above is actually not just a concern for the future but is in fact already happening (including the occasional stranger through a baby monitor, such as happened to Foscam earlier this year). As we trust these devices with everything from our medical data, dietary and sleeping patterns to our bank details, it is becoming increasingly likely that the weakest link to your private data is not the laptop with the up-to-date (I hope) virus checker and an inbuilt firewall, but rather the bluetooth/wifi plant watering system you set up to look after the pot plants in the back room.

You immediately bring your laptop into the child’s room, turn off the baby monitor and resolve to enjoying the internet as quietly as you can without having the baby physically out of your sight. As you get over your concern of the stranger on the baby monitor, you get the coffee machine to start up from your phone and wait for the notification that it’s ready. With disgust, you note that the criminal also had the machine add sugar to your usual cup of relaxation. The bastard.

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Words by Kevin Clark