These cloud-connected devices are totally spying on you (or just letting others do it)
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The internet of nosy things
Worried that one of your devices may be spying on you? You should be.
It sounds like a cool toy: a talking Barbie doll that uses voice-recognition software to “listen” to kids’ conversations and respond appropriately.
The downside critics say: It records children’s conversations to the cloud, where they could be hacked — or the data could be exploited by the toy’s maker.
Smart TVs, dumb data leaks
While you’re watching TV, it’s also watching you. Electronics maker LG admitted in 2013 to gathering info on customer viewing habits… and selling that data to advertisers.
Potentially deadly data
Hackable or insecure medical devices could spill not only your data, but also your blood.
Highlighting a fear from TV’s Homeland, in which a terrorist assassinates a politician by remotely controlling his pacemaker, hacker Barnaby Jack demonstrated how easy it is to hijack medical devices like insulin pumps and pacemakers starting back in 2011.
Talking recipes with your smart oven
Your new high-tech stove might be able to chat it up with you… and also its manufacturer.
LG touts that “owners will be able to talk directly to smart ovens for the purpose of collecting recipe recommendations and discovering exactly which ingredients are needed.” That’s nice, but LG will also have all your data and probably hawk sponsored food products.
Who's talking to your oven?
Also, as a convenience feature, LG and other smart appliance companies offer remote monitoring and control of these machines through phones and tablets. Hacking caveat: They’re not guaranteeing whose phones and tablets will be doing the controlling — and mobile device hijacking is always a concern.
Internet-connected child monitors seem to be leakier than a baby’s diaper when it comes to data, with 8 out of 10 receiving a failing safety grade in a recent survey.
And it’s not like it’s all hypothetical. There are well-documented cases of creepy hackers talking to babies through compromised devices’ speakers and following mothers around by swiveling the cameras.
Surprise! Home security systems may not be that secure
If even your oven can rat you out, we’re not totally surprised that home security systems are vulnerable.
A study by HP showed that weak security system passwords, hackable phones, and tablet access to systems, as well as cloud video streaming, are among the many, many vulnerabilities.
You're the show, whether you want to be or not
Many newer TVs have built-in cameras and mics (just like your laptop) that are vulnerable to hackers who slither in through Wi-Fi or apps.
Samsung reportedly patched a flaw that allowed spyware to take over and record you, but who knows what other potential exploits are still out there? Sure, maybe you always wanted to be on TV, but not like this.
Gamers are fair game too
Microsoft admits it records Xbox One Kinect gameplay, voice, and video chat to use as they see fit. And Sony does pretty much the same thing, reserving the right to record all activity on PlayStation 4 for any reason at all.
Toasters and dryers and spycraft, oh my!
If it seems like everything except the kitchen sink is spying on you, it could be true. Toasters, coffee makers, dishwashers, and dryers are all internet capable these days, piping info to their manufacturers.
Indeed, former CIA chief David Petraeus says that with all these smart gadgets, Americans are effectively bugging their own homes.
Cable box peep show?
If the hackable cameras in your laptops, phones, and smart TVs have you worried, get ready for more nagging dread. Google and Verizon have considered putting cameras and mics in cable boxes to monitor who’s watching. In 2011, Verizon even filed a patent for a system that would monitor the “ambient actions” of viewers and then deliver targeted advertising based on that behavior. From the patent, the cable box would detect “that two users are cuddling on a couch” and then shows commercials “associated with cuddling (e.g., a commercial for a romantic getaway vacation, a commercial for a contraceptive, a commercial for flowers, a commercial including a trailer for an upcoming romantic comedy movie, etc.).”
But it’s all for us. No. Really. To help us watch better.
Will you trust your car?
They’re still down the road quite a ways, but self-driving cars are another potentially massive big-data spill. Will you own your car’s data, or will it be mined and combined with other info by the car’s manufacturer? Hello! Why do you think Google is interested?
Hackers just want to drive your car...into the ditch
When hackers can take control of vehicles remotely, as they recently demonstrated with Fiat Chrysler, it’s easy to see that data leaks are potentially more dangerous than oil leaks. But it doesn’t stop there.
Anyone who’s watched a cop show knows your car’s GPS can lead to the scene of the crime. In the real world, hackable data from GM’s OnStar could also reveal how often you shop, pub hop, and (with the sensor-laden smart roads of the future) possibly even whether you drive erratically afterward.
Your fridge could spill your data
Your tattletale Wi-Fi-enabled fridge reports back to the appliance company (GE, Samsung, LG, etc.) about how often you open it and whether it’s functioning properly.
This is good for them to track efficiency and heat-loss patterns, but it’s also a potential way for hackers to locate prospects for their robber pals.
Your phone can't be trusted
Everyone knows that what goes in the cloud doesn’t always stay in the cloud, and nowhere is that more obvious or omnipresent than with our phones.
It’s not just breaches like “The Fappening” iCloud hack; it’s also through the not-always-secure data that all your apps are leeching from you daily. FYI: You give ’em permission in the terms of service you never read.
And as if that weren’t scary enough, the military has figured out ways to use a phone’s GPS, camera, and other tools to make a 3D map of the phone’s location.
Intelligent homes are vulnerable
The smart home of the future is right around the corner, which means the smart hackers are right behind them.
Even the reportedly secure internet-connected thermostat from Nest could be compromised if someone gains physical access to your system. Once they’re in, hackers could control your Wi-Fi and, thereby, all your connected devices.