How a Simple Smartphone Can Turn Your Car, Home, or Medical Device into a Deadly Weapon | Vanity Fair:
Examples from the long article
medical devices: pacemakers, defibrillators, cochlear implants, insulin pumps, cardiovascular monitors, artificial pancreases, and all the other electronic marvels doctors now are inserting into human bodies.
Major power and telephone grids have long been controlled by computer networks, but now similar systems are embedded in such mundane objects as electric meters, alarm clocks, home refrigerators and thermostats, video cameras, bathroom scales, and Christmas-tree lights—all of which are, or soon will be, accessible remotely.
Since 2007, every new car in the United States has been equipped with a tire-pressure-monitoring system, or T.P.M.S. Electronic sensors in the wheels report tire problems to an onboard computer, which flashes a warning icon on the dashboard. In 2010, researchers from Rutgers and the University of South Carolina discovered that they could read a tire’s ID from as far away as 130 feet. This means that every car tire is, in effect, a homing device and that people 130 feet from an automobile can talk to it through its tires. The car drives by, you call the transmitter with your smartphone, it sends the initiation code—bang! The car locks up at 70 miles per hour. You’ve crashed their car without touching it.”
I didn’t know. The contractor didn’t know, either. Nor did the cable guy or the house-alarm guy. After a few phone calls, I learned that our electric company had installed the mystery box to monitor the new solar panels on the roof. Our house—or at least our roof—was part of the Internet of Things.
Because smart meters register every tiny up and down in energy use, they are, in effect, monitoring every activity in the home. By studying three homes’ smart-meter records, researchers at the University of Massachusetts were able to deduce not only how many people were in each dwelling at any given time but also when they were using their computers, coffee machines, and toasters. Incredibly, Kohno’s group at the University of Washington was able to use tiny fluctuations in power usage to figure out exactly what movies people were watching on their TVs. (The play of imagery on the monitor creates a unique fingerprint of electromagnetic interference that can be matched to a database of such fingerprints.)
In the rush to put computers into everything, neither manufacturers nor consumers think about the possible threats. “I would be shocked if a random parent at Toys R Us picked up a toy with a wireless connection and thought, I wonder if there are any security problems here.” Kohno said to me. As he has himself demonstrated, children’s Erector Sets with Web cams can be taken over remotely and used for surveillance.
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