Appliances Now Can Be Used to Hack Your Business

Appliances Now Can Be Used to Hack Your Business

A security company, Proofpoint, claims to have uncovered a hacking involving a refrigerator and televisions — and 750,000 malicious emails.

Appliances and all sorts of gadgets now have Internet connections. Experts have warned about the potential of such appliances and other gadgets being used in cyber attacks. Proofpoint claims to now have evidence of one of these attacks using such devices. This would be the first time such an attack using devices which are not conventional computers has actually been reported

From Dec. 23 through Jan. 6, malicious emails were sent in waves of 100,000 from all sorts of devices connected to the Internet, Proofpoint says.

The company says the attack included more than 750,000 phishing and spam emails in all. Over 25 percent of the volume of the emails were sent from devices that were not conventional laptops, desktops or mobile devices. Hacked devices included routers, smart TVs, and at least one smart refrigerator. An official Proofpoint report explains:

“No more than 10 emails were initiated from any single IP address, making the attack difficult to block based on location – and in many cases, the devices had not been subject to a sophisticated compromise; instead, misconfiguration and the use of default passwords left the devices completely exposed on public networks, available for takeover and use.”

So, the next time you grab your lunch from the company lunch room, you may be stumbling on a cyber attack. For devices that are connected somehow to the “Internet of Things,” be sure they are as secure as anything else.

According to proofpoint, most such devices aren’t protected by anti-spam or anti-virus infrastructure available to organizations and individuals. They also rarely have dedicated IT teams or software to address new security issues as they arise the way conventional computers do.

In the report, Proofpoint adds:

“The result is that Enterprises can’t expect IoT-based attacks to be resolved at the source; instead, preparations must be made for the inevitable increase in highly distributed attacks, phish in employee inboxes, and clicks on malicious links.”

The company says such smart devices are expected to grow to four times the number of conventional laptops, desktops and mobile devices over the next few years. So businesses must be aware of the risks.

Smart TV Photo via Shutterstock


Joshua Sophy Joshua Sophy is the Editor for Small Business Trends and the Head of Content Partnerships. A journalist with 20 years of experience in traditional and online media, he is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists. He founded his own local newspaper, the Pottsville Free Press, covering his hometown.

15 Reactions
  1. If you want a fridge that is connected to your smartphone so you know what groceries you’re low on, then you’ll need to balance that benefit with the risk of having a fridge that is connected to the internet and can be hacked. People just need to understand the trade-offs.

  2. I sigh at this, even though logic tells me it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that this has happened, because it makes sense that, well, anything hooked up to the internet is open to being exploited.

  3. Seriously? You can use a refrigerator to hack? If that’s the case, then everybody is vulnerable. This just means that we are just more exposed to more risks. I hope they have more counter processes for these threats.

  4. Smart devices rarely have dedicated IT teams or software to address new security issues the way conventional computers do.

    • Diana: that presents an opening in the market, an opportunity for a company to explore in terms of support. It’s a new and unexplored niche and will become an increasing need, I think.

  5. Very informative post for all business holders to stay alert & act smartly, since hacking has troubled every nation with their secrets. I believe smart devices needs to be handled properly with all information, else it can work against the welfare of the company & its employees.

  6. Pretty amazing to hear, Joshua.

    Maybe I can use this news as an excuse to stay out of my kitchen more.

    The Franchise King®

  7. Very interesting article. I figured that something just like this was around the corner, some people love to push technology to the extreme! Is there really a need to connect your refrigerator, hot water heater or other device to the internet? Probably not, we should exercise our brains more anyway by using them to actually remember what groceries we need at home. Television, I guess, since there is many entertainment opportunities from web-based content. I’m going to at least stick with ‘unconnected’ appliances for the most part. I shouldn’t have to buy antivirus software for my air conditioner. 😉

    • I actually don’t understand why a fridge would be connected to the internet. For what? I don’t get it.

      I don’t have a smartphone, so I doubt I’ll be buying any internet-enabled appliances any century soon :).

  8. I’ve seen very smart uses of smart devices around the house, on things like hot water heaters, lighting systems, and the like. Living in a climate where we spend a lot of money on energy, every dollar is vital. Same goes for any business.

    If it’s a $50 a year purchase for anti-virus software that could end up saving me thousands because I have a smart furnace or electric grid, I’m on it.

    No one needs to make a piece of toast from their phone or a refrigerator that tells them they’re low on orange juice. However, a refrigerator is the largest surface to put a monitor and it can be handy to have how-to videos for cooking or even a way to order the contents of an entire recipe right from the appliance that’s sorely lacking those items.

    • Hmm, Joshua, when you put it that way, I can see where you’re coming from and how useful it’d be for a something like a fridge to be internet-enabled, even a cooker. In which case, I hope anti-virus software is in the pipeline, and soon.