Researchers demonstrated that even a vibrator could be subject to a cyber attack

Even a vibrator could be hacked

Once the Internet of Things fully takes off, no object will be safe from resourceful hackers and that includes sex toys, as demonstrated by a US software firm during the CeBIT show in Germany.

During a media demonstration, software security firm Trend Micro demonstrated how a vibrator could be hacked – or turned on remotely – from a hacker’s laptop. The provocative demonstration, however, had a much deeper message. In the ever more connected world, the issue of cyber security is becoming increasingly pressing.

"If I hack a vibrator it's just fun," Raimund Genes, chief technology officer at Tokyo-listed Trend Micro, told reporters at the CeBIT technology fair in Hanover.

"But if I can get to the back-end, I can blackmail the manufacturer," he added, referring to the programming system behind a device's interface.

While turning on someone’s sex toy remotely may be simply amusing, there are other devices that could provide criminals with important information about the behaviour of possible targets.

The problem is that manufacturers of many such devices don’t pay enough attention to security issues and the public is simply unaware of the risks.

Industrial hacking is an even bigger problem, which will only grow with the increase of connected machinery and Internet of Things systems.

In Germany alone, 51 per cent of IT companies have been subject to hacking attacks aimed at stealing data or sabotaging operations in the past two years. Two-thirds of the country’s SMEs have registered attacks and 84 per cent of managers expect the situation will get even worse with the growing connectivity.

In recent weeks, several German hospitals have come under attack from Ransomware, a virus that encrypts data on infected machines and demands that users pay to get an electronic key to unlock it.

The German government got its own wake-up call last year, when hackers attacked the lower house of parliament's computer network, forcing it to shut down the system for several days and compromising large amounts of data.

"If someone decided to start shooting with a pistol from the roof of the Reichstag (parliament), security guards would be all over them. But when data are siphoned off for months, no one bats an eyelid," said Dirk Arendt, director of public affairs at Israeli cyber security firm Check Point Software Technologies.

The analyst believes that educating employees about the risks of opening suspicious email attachment needs to be treated as seriously as warning motorists about dangerous road conditions.

"We only wake up when the damage is done," he said. "There are enough examples of successful hacking cases. Now the next steps need to be taken to get back into a secure area."

Germany has started waking up to the threats and ordered 2,000 of its providers of critical infrastructure to implement security standards and report serious breaches or face penalties.

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