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    February 7, 2024

    How IoT devices, even washing machines, can be used for hacking

    The Expanding Universe of IoT Devices

    Today, our homes are getting smarter and smarter with the Internet of Things (IoT). From smart thermostats to voice-activated assistants and even washing machines, these connected devices offer convenience and efficiency like never before. However, as the number of IoT devices in our homes grows, so does the attack surface for hackers.

    The Vulnerabilities of IoT Devices

    IoT devices are often more focused on being useful than being secure, which makes them attractive targets for cybercriminals. Here are some common vulnerabilities found in IoT devices that can be exploited for malicious purposes:

    • Weak Passwords: Many IoT devices come with default, easily guessable passwords, and users often neglect to change them. This is essentially an open invitation for hackers to gain access.

    • Lack of Regular Updates: Manufacturers may not release timely security updates for IoT devices, leaving them vulnerable to known exploits.

    • Weak Encryption: Some IoT devices may transmit data in an unencrypted or weakly encrypted format, potentially allowing hackers to steal sensitive information.

    How IoT Devices Can Be Used for Hacking

    Believe it or not, even your washing machine can be used for hacking in various ways:

    • Botnets: Hackers can take control of many IoT devices, including washing machines, to create groups of hacked devices called botnets. These networks of compromised devices can be used to launch large-scale DDoS attacks or distribute malware.
    • Data Theft: IoT devices may store personal information or credentials. A compromised device can be used to steal this data, which can then be sold or used for identity theft.
    • Infiltrating Your Network: A vulnerable IoT device can serve as a backdoor into your home network, allowing hackers to access other connected devices, such as computers and smartphones.
    • Eavesdropping: Some IoT devices, like smart TVs or voice assistants, have built-in microphones and cameras. Hackers can exploit these devices to eavesdrop on conversations or even spy on you.

    Back in April of 2019, Microsoft discovered that the Russian hacker group called Strontium, also known as “Fancy Bear”, exploited multiple IoT devices to gain a foothold on their target’s internal network. In one case, the group discovered that the default password on an IoT device had not been changed, leaving it vulnerable to a variety of password guessing attacks. The group also discovered that there were IoT devices that were not updated, which allowed them to take advantage of the devices due to a lack of security features.
    In both cases, the IoT devices served as an entry point into their target’s internal network, which then allowed them to start sniffing network traffic on local subnets.


    The Importance of Cybersecurity

    To protect against these unexpected threats, it's crucial to implement sufficient cybersecurity measures:

    • Change Default Passwords: Make sure you use strong, unique passwords, and not the default ones that come with your devices.
    • Regular Updates: Keep your IoT devices updated with the latest firmware and security patches.
    • Network Segmentation: Isolate your IoT devices on a separate network from critical systems to limit the potential damage a breach can cause.
    • Configure a Secure Gateway: Make sure that your gateway does not have a weak security configuration. Settings, such as uPnP and WPS should be disabled.
    • Security Software: Consider using security software or firewalls to add an extra layer of protection.
    • Awareness and Education: Educate yourself about the potential risks associated with IoT devices and the importance of responsible usage.



    So, who would hack a washing machine? Well, anyone with malicious intent. As our world becomes increasingly linked together, it's important to recognize that the convenience of IoT devices also comes with potential risks. By staying vigilant, maintaining good cybersecurity practices, and being aware of the vulnerabilities these devices may possess, we can enjoy the benefits of smart technology while keeping our homes and personal data secure from those who would exploit the seemingly innocent.

    And as a colleague said – the same Smart TV I have at home may also sit in the company board room!

    Book a free online meeting with a senior penetration tester.

    If you want to read more about what Nemko does to secure your everyday cyber life - see our cybersecurity pages

    Geir Hørthe

    Geir Hørthe is responsible for the Nemko cyber security initiative. He has worked at Nemko for more than 30 years, in the capacity of test services, lab manager of safety, ATEX and medical departments. He has also been Managing Director at the Nemko office in London for two years. After he returned to Norway, he held...

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