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No Safeguards for “Smart” Home Appliances
No Safeguards for “Smart” Home Appliances
  • By Cho Jin-young
  • May 13, 2015, 09:15
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A proposed scene of a smart home from LG.
A proposed scene of a smart home from LG.


More than 750,000 spam emails were sent out in bursts in Jan. 2014. Surprisingly, it was not computers that blasted these unwanted messages, but televisions and refrigerators. Proofpoint, an American security firm, has uncovered a cyber attack that involves hacking wired home appliances and sending out malicious emails with them, which they outlined during a technology demonstration. “Just like personal computers and smartphones, home appliances have operating systems and CPUs, but unlike the former, there are virtually no security devices in the latter,” the Proofpoint researcher said. “We exploited their weak security by hacking them and sent spam,” he explained.

Home appliances are not the only things wired now. Including cars, clothes, and houses, almost everything in everyday life is “wired.” From the entrance to every part of a factory, everywhere is wired, and remote control factory settings are being introduced these days. The earth is now becoming hyperconnected, everything becoming wired together in our living world.

According to the Korea Institute for Industrial Economics and Trade, the estimated value of possible IoT security damage is 13.4 trillion won (US$12.2 billion). As the fundamental systems and facilities serving this country become increasingly wired, the threat of cyber attacks grow. For example, even if the Internet is inactive for 1 percent of the time, the globe faces the astronomical number of US$13 trillion worth of losses. This threat is very real. Cyber attacks on country infrastructure aiming to deliberately destroy the system are now on the increase.

“More and more people use wired devices such as smart televisions and refrigerators, but most of the products have security issues. Smartphones, enjoying up to an 80 percent penetration rate, are not exceptions,” one KIET researcher explained. “There were distributed denial-of-service attacks on Korean government sites on the 7th of July back in 2009. Now we face the same threat this time from our smartphones, televisions, even refrigerators,” he warned.

The government, understanding this significant implication of IoT security issues, strives to make and practice sound security policies. “Most IoT products have virtually no security safeguards or very few. Accordingly, these products could be very vulnerable to security issues including hacking.” Park Sung-jin, director of the Information Protect and Support division of the Ministry of Science, ITC and Future Planning, said, “We will support and lead the developers of these IoT products and services so that they can create relevant security technologies early at the stage of production. We will also consider constituting a security task force committee to counter attack any cyber attack.”