Dr Mercedes Bunz, alongside Richard Sims, a product development consultant at the Technology Partnership described the issues facing users of “smart” internet-connected devices such as webcams, kettles and baby monitors which connect to the internet by default using stock code from open-source software, which makes them vulnerable to hacking.
“You can’t install a firewall on a baby monitor" says Dr Bunz, "because it doesn’t have enough memory.” In addition to baby monitors which can send alerts mobile phones, connected devices include smart TVs and home lighting systems that can be activated via a mobile phone. Attacks using connected devices are not new. In 2014, a fridge, home routers and smart TVs were among 100,000 devices hacked to launch a spam email campaign.
As the cyber attacks get more sophisticated, Sims argues that companies have to pay more attention to security at a design stage. Dr Bunz agrees, arguing that the general public do not know how vulnerable connected devices are. “The problem is that people don’t change their passwords,” she says. “They just keep their default passwords and they are so easily hackable and they are very easily turned around into a little bot, because that doesn’t need a lot of memory.
“What we really need is a step up by the corporations to care more about security.”