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Has Your Fridge Got a Virus?

With the increasing popularity of ‘smart’ devices that connect such things as fridges, TVs, multi-media centres, and central heating thermostats to the internet, it was inevitable that there would soon be stories of security issues.  Indeed, only last week the BBC reported that a fridge had been caught sending spam emails.

We are pleased to report that currently (and by that we do mean as of today!), reports of fridges sending spam are inaccurate.  The spam that was claimed to have been sent from fridges was actually (surprise, surprise) malware which only affects Windows computers.

The challenge for security and anti-virus specialists is that as the majority of smart devices in the home will connect to the outside world using a home router and Network Address Translation (NAT), all devices can seem to share the same IP address.  This makes it hard to identify which device behind the router was responsible for sending spam.  Unfortunately, if the router employes port forwarding, it might seem that the router is invisible and that the smart device is the only thing using an IP address.

Smart devices are going to become more and more prevalent – there is no getting away from the benefits of an internet-enabled TV and for many a fridge that automatically orders milk when you run out might seem worthwhile.

However, there is no escaping the security risks posed and it seems that manufacturers of smart devices are failing to future-proof the devices, or intend to retrospectively deal with the problem.  Unfortunately history tells us that dealing with security in this manner is unwise (security for smartphones has been underestimated to the detriment of many users), whilst installing anti-virus software on a smart device may well be an exercise in futility!

The first challenge will be knowing your smart device has a virus.  Many will have no displays and they may show no signs of having been compromised.  Of course, aside from the spreading of viruses, cyber criminals will be looking at how to exploit the data available to them.  No-one would be comfortable with a device which could tell a criminal gang where you lived and when your home was unoccupied!

Developments in smart devices, both in our homes and the cars we drive, will continue to accelerate and affect more areas of our daily lives.  Smart homes have been around for decades but the real driver will be the Wifi capabilities all around us.  The technology is undeniably exciting and the improvements to our lives could be huge, but security needs to be considered more seriously.

Just please don’t blame us if your fridge tells the online world that you don’t need any milk as you are going on holiday for 2 weeks!