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What Can Be Hacked Today

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Over the years online security breaches have been on the rise and have created consternation on many websites, including those of the federal government. Blue chip companies have labored continuously to enhance the security of their networks, and yet hackers are still at work discovering new methods of breaching them. Here is today's list of what contemporary hackers are targeting:

1. Mobile Phones: During the Cold War the covert world of espionage was rife with technology surrounding listening bugs. Nowadays hackers have at their disposal a plethora of apps that can access smartphones in similar fashion. Hackers have thus been known to uncover a smartphone's location, short message service (SMS), passwords, and data. Calls made on a hacked phone can also be accessed.

2. Cellular Networks: Hackers can spoof cellular network. Spoofing is defined as "substituting a genuine resource with a malicious alternative to dupe the user." In fact, hackers have been known to utilize a femtocell (which is a smaller, low-power cellular base station designed for home or small business) and make it look like a cellular tower. Doing so allows them to access your phone.

3. Bypassing HTTPS: There was a time when seeing the additional 's' affixed to an 'http' signified a secure connection. That's no longer the case. Hackers know that the SSL/TLS protocol (which is the basis for HTTPS connection) can be breached.

4. IoT, or Internet of Things: The Internet of Things (or IoT), a term coined in 2009, refers to the cloud-connection of such objects as heart monitors or even common everyday objects (like a crockpot) that have sensors and processors utilizing a network to stay connected to different machines (e.g. how one's mobile device can adjust one's home thermostat remotely). In short, it describes how devices and appliances are connected to the internet and to each other. Now that many manufacturers are touting products connected through the cloud or via the IoT, hackers have now turned to the Internet of Things as their newest goldmine. With the rise of smart appliances comes the attendant rise of their vulnerability to cyberattack.

5. Hacking cars: Now that automobiles have joined the smart technology bandwagon, hackers are now able to access the electronic systems of a car. They've been known to remotely control a vehicle's engine, brakes, dashboard, and GPS. Even more alarming is that driver input was ignored despite driver attempts at maneuvering the wheels, pedals, and switches! Researchers at the University of Washington and the University of California showcased their findings when their security specialists gained control of a number of functions while the cars in study were in motion -- such as steering the car, shutting off the engine completely, even utilizing malicious software that tampered a car's data so as to erase information after a crash. Moreover, hackers have been known to sell their services to car thieves by providing them with a vehicle's GPS location, unlocking its doors, and starting its engines remotely.

6. Computer batteries: Computer batteries are now installed with small monitor chips. And where there's a chip, a hacker can get into it. It's no wonder then that there have been reports of hackers reverse-engineering the technology so as to render the battery useless or even inject malware into the computer via the battery's chip.

7. Baby monitors: It is understood that the more computerized and dependent an appliance becomes to wireless communication, then the more vulnerable it becomes to cyberattack. In consequence, it should come as no surprise that POPULAR SCIENCE magazine covered a story about a Houston couple discovering that their baby monitor was hacked into when a man's voice began shouting expletives at their sleeping baby. Creepy! It's no longer just about ATMs, insulin pumps, home routers, wireless speakers, smart TVs, or pacemakers. The lesson here is that if a new product has Wi-Fi network capabilities, make sure it has password safeguards, too, lest a malicious third-party access the product. Many of these smart products are still in their early stages of evolving, and not all of the kinks have been ironed out. Essentially, their manufacturers "haven't done enough to protect appliances from hacks," states a National Public Radio (NPR) news article.

8. Refrigerators: Recently NPR News reported about security firm Proofpoint Inc uncovering a new type of hack, wherein a refrigerator sent out a malicious email. According to NPR, "Sometime between December 23 and January 6, hackers commandeered home routers and the like and used them to send out malicious emails to grow their botnet, or army of infected devices. Botnets -- and now, 'ThingBots' -- can be used by hackers to perform large-scale cyberattacks against websites by drowning them with traffic." In the specific case of the refrigerator, Proofpoint's general manager of information security, David Knight went on to say: "Many of these devices...are running old software with known vulnerabilities. They've got very insecure default passwords like [username] admin." This leads to "degraded machine performance because of compromised software [causing] their machines [to be] busy sending malicious messages...instead of playing music or doing whatever they're supposed to be doing. They also might cease to function or not be reachable for their intended purpose." So what was in that malicious message the hacked refrigerator sent? Knight responded: "We choose not to pry into the privacy of this person's refrigerator."

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