TAMPA (FOX 13) - The internet connects us to the world. A finger touch, a hand swipe makes life easier. But connectivity can have negative consequences. Left unprotected, everyday items we take for granted can be used against us.
At the Florida Center for Cybersecurity, director Sri Sridharan knows what kind of damage can be done.
"There are now devices that lock and unlock your homes from a security standpoint. They can monitor your thermostat for temperature, there are smart refrigerators," Sridharan told us.
Wireless coffee makers, security cameras, cars, television sets, and even children's toys can be compromised. And once infected, they can be used to wage war against banks, governments, and even grocery stores.
"You won't even know that your refrigerator is attacking a bank," said Sridharan.
All of this may sound outrageous, but private security expert Brad Daniels told us it's happened before.
"There is a large attack back in October that took down several major websites and that was all from the internet of things, devices that people might have in their homes," Daniels said.
What makes these household wireless devices so vulnerable is lax manufacturer security. "There are software programs that will go scan the internet looking for vulnerable internet-of-things devices and then compromise them," Daniels explained.
In a recent report, IT professionals worldwide listed this so-called internet of things the top security threat of 2017.
Sridharan explained how hackers can take control. "They might have used their iPad device or their smartphone with some free WiFi network at a coffee shop that's not a secure connection, and there are bad guys out there, hackers that hang around those types of places to infect that smartphone. And, in turn, that smartphone infects the infrastructure.”
That smart TV in your living room or bedroom is vulnerable too.
"It can also be turned on and accessed to monitor what you're talking about within your living room," Sridharan warned.
But there are things you can do to minimize the threat:
- Thoroughly read the instructions on internet setup for all of your devices.
- Stay vigilant with periodic software updates by the manufacturer.
- Make sure that the WiFi access point in your home is well protected. Chances are that the hackers will have a hard time getting into your home and your network.