That Cool New Device May Be Easy To Hack

Jan 14, 2019

Sensors and smart speakers were the stars at this year's Consumer Electronics Show (CES) that wrapped up in Las Vegas over the weekend. But experts say greater connectivity puts users at risk of getting hacked.

At the 2019 CES, exhibitors were all about the IoT, or Internet of Things, devices that connect and exchange information. But is the information these gadgets collect secure?

A former National Security Agency hacker and now the CEO of TrustedSec, an Ohio-based firm that advises healthcare companies, automakers, banks and more, has something to say about it. David Kennedy says the problem is the companies making the gadgets are manufacturers first, software developers second, and often don't consider security.

"I think the thing that we are looking at right now for this year and the new technology is, is security a theme?" Kennedy says. "In a lot of those you don't hear anybody really talking about that. So it will be interesting to hear when the new technology comes out."

For manufacturers whose products talk to each other, like LG, artificial intelligence allows things like refrigerators and TVs to be controlled by Alexa. Kennedy advises customers have different passwords for each device.

So-called password vaults can store and insert them on your phone or computer so you don't have to remember the passwords. Kennedy also recommends having a good update strategy.

"Keeping up-to-date is very important because when new security attacks come out it will definitely fix those and address those as they become available," he says.

The medical field is probably one of the worst when it comes to security, he says. It's not that doctors aren't worried about things like implanted devices, they're just trying to make it easier for patients.

"They are very slow to update or very slow to fix things. And so a lot of times these devices have generally no security whatsoever and so you have the ability to hack them in a lot of different ways that would be possible with a backpack."

Alexa or Google Assistant, if hacked, could do more than you think. "There are subliminal messages you can send that only Alexa's microphone can hear and you can't hear," Kennedy says. "Messages that you can play inside of a song or music that orders things off of your shopping list."