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'Is your fridge being used by cybercriminals?'

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Your smart fridge-freezer or toaster could be used against you by cybercriminals hacking into your business or home network via internet-enabled smart devices, a cybersecurity expert warns.

"Business owner or homemaker, you have a higher chance of suffering a cyberattack than you do fire or flood", warns the author of the book 'She'll Be Right (Not!) - a cybersecurity guide for Kiwi business owners - and SMB cybersecurity expert Daniel Watson.

"Smart appliances, like fridges, printers, toasters, air-conditioners, off-the-shelf security cameras and televisions connected to the Internet will also have embedded electronics that can provide a shortcut to entry for cybercriminals.

"Attacks using fridges and other appliances are not as rare as you might think. Criminals and other malicious actors can turn your appliances into slaves and put them to work sending infected messages and malware, to gain data for identity theft or use in denial-of-service attacks, among other things."

Watson says the first such attack was reported as early as 2013 when a fridge was used to send more than 750,000 malicious emails.

"The difficulty is that the business owner or homemaker is almost entirely reliant on the manufacturer to design, install and maintain the security of the appliance - whoever thought they would need to worry about the security of their fridge? But it is a reality.

"The one thing a person who suspects their appliances - for example, you might find that your fridge is suddenly using all your outbound bandwidth - may have been hacked is to disconnect it from the Internet, making it dumb again."

1. Shop for secure brands

Watsons says that people purchase brands for their popularity, quality and features, but this may have to change because the time is coming when all appliances will be smart enabled.

"If you want a connected fridge - for example, to host the family's Google calendar or company's notices - you will have to do your homework on their security features and how often the software is updated and vulnerabilities patched."

2. Back up and get insured

"The reality is that the average Kiwi and business owner has a higher chance of getting hacked for data theft, malware and ransom than they do from suffering a fire or flood," Watson said. "Yet most people have fire and general insurance, but hardly anybody has taken out cyber insurance.

"If you are a business, make sure your data is backed up and regularly tested to ensure the backup works as it should."

3. Segregate the network

Another option may be to have your IT provider evaluate your security and, where possible - mainly if you are in business - segregate your network from certain appliances or machinery.

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