(NaturalNews) They say "the Internet of things" is coming, and indeed, more and more devices, from televisions to small appliances, are becoming "smart," meaning that they can be accessed and controlled wirelessly.
What's more, with everything that we use in our daily lives being connected, eventually, to the Internet, technology experts and analysts are warning that those items will also be in danger of being hacked.
Sadly, and surprisingly, that will eventually include even our toilets.
As reported by Bloomberg News:
Come home to a hot iron and smoldering clothes this afternoon? Soon, it may not be a sign of forgetfulness, but rather evidence that you've been hacked.
In coming years, your smartphone will be able to lock your house, turn on the air conditioning, check whether the milk is out of date, or even heat up your iron. Great news, except that all that convenience could also let criminals open your doors, spy on your family or drive your connected car to their lair.
"As these technologies become more sophisticated, it opens up a broader spectrum of threats," Gunter Ollmann, chief technology officer of IOActive, a tech security firm in Seattle, told Bloomberg. A world of connected devices makes it possible "for the bad guys to have permanent entry into your household."
'There's an app for that'
The Internet of things is being championed as the next wave of tech riches, and it is expected to be massive. In the not-too-distant future -- by 2020 -- there could be as many as 26 billion devices connected to the Internet, up from just 3 billion today, according to Gartner Inc., a tech industry researcher. That's nearly four times the number of smart phones, PCs and tablets that will be in use.
The goal is to connect nearly everything, from our cars to our refrigerators, lamps and, yes, even our toilets. If you forget to flush, well, there will be an app for that.
And while data security is not typically something you might consider for your toilet, it is a big deal. Ditto for your frig, baby monitor and home security system. That's because security lapses on such devices might just allow people with bad intentions to throw major disruptions into your life, gather invaluable information about your personal life or even use stolen information to defraud other victims, said Ollmann.
A Chicago company, Trustwave, helps corporate clients battle cybercrime. It hijacked a Bluetooth connection recently that controls toilets made by Japan's Lixil Group and could allow hackers to open or close the lid and even blast a stream of water at the user's buttocks, Trustwave officials said.
Bloomberg News further reported:
Lixil said it's difficult to commandeer its toilets as hackers would need to connect their smartphone to the loo using a special remote that comes with the device, making abuse "a very rare case."
And granted, as the Internet of things progresses, so, too, will cybersecurity. But with each new Internet-connected development comes new cybersecurity risk.
'Not much focus on security'
Worse, even some tech companies have created devices that don't have adequate protection. Bloomberg reported that Ollman's group was able to break into a home automation system manufactured by Belkin International, a company that makes phone accessories and Wi-Fi routers. Belkin's WeMo box fits over electrical outlets to control lamps, coffee makers and a range of other appliances using a smartphone app.
And what about hackers who want to wreak havoc -- those with a destructive mindset or those who are wanting retribution for something?
IOActive discovered a way to take over switches and transform them into a force capable of turning on heaters and irons, major electricity users as well as fire hazards. Belkin told Bloomberg that it discovered such vulnerabilities and repaired them before IOActive was able to pinpoint them in an older device.
"This push to make everything under the sun Internet connected, perhaps because it's in many respects aimed at the consumer end of the market, hasn't had much of a focus on security," John Yeo, a director at Spiderlabs, Trustwave's research unit, said.