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Connected Home refrigerator used by hackers in cyber attack

I suppose that it raises an interesting question; why do we want a smart refrigerator and why do we want it to be connected to the internet?

This type of product is not for everyone but it gives a good indication of the types of product in the the smart home revolution  Photograph: Shutterstock
This type of product is not for everyone but it gives a good indication of the types of product in the the smart home revolution Photograph: Shutterstock
published on UK Free TV

Refrigerator Used By Hackers In Cyber Attack was a headline on Sky News earlier this year and reported a story of how internet connected home appliances were "hacked" and infected by a botnet that sent 750 000 malicious emails over a two week period. For readers unfamiliar with what a botnet is and does - well here goes; a botnet is a collection of internet computer programs that communicates with other programs to perform tasks - some of these tasks may be useful but some can be malicious and possibly destructive. The home appliance in this case was a refrigerator connected via a home network to the internet and whilst this cyber-attack was low level, it does indicate a vulnerability to a smart home network. Well these types of product have a barcode scanner that scans products as they are added, keeps an eye on (metaphorically!) expiry dates of produce, provides typical recipes in which the contents of the fridge could be used, it has a programmable dietician that monitors the types of food you are eating and, finally, it has a web-enabled internal camera that can be remotely accessed to determine what is left in the fridge! Whatever next?

Well it is clear that this type of product is not for everyone but it gives a good indication of the types of product in the the smart home revolution that is coming our way and, whilst an internet capable `fridge is arguably niche, it is an indication of the types of product that we can see beginning to emerge and some of the challenges that may need to be overcome as smart home technologies develop.

Tech UK (formerly Intellect) holds the Connected Home close to their heart and is working very closely with many organisations to define and develop the Connected Home concept. They recently produced a Connected Home Newsletter that summarises the current state of affairs of the Connected Home environment and includes perceived opportunities and strengths with mention of the cyber threat described above.

We should all be aware of LAN (Local Area Network - CAT5/6 connections and/or wireless), but another term that we should be getting acquainted with is HAN - Home Area Network. This is the infrastructure for connected home devices to communicate through inside or close to the home and encompasses many evident and emergent technologies including Smart television, video on demand, catch up television, telehealth and smart metering. Device communication within the home is already present using conventional LAN systems typically connecting a Smart television to the internet or network storage etc. and will develop further. However, within a Home Area Network (HAN), equipment and devices can also connect wirelessly, external to the home but within short radius; typically for smart meters. According to a consultation available at www.gov.uk, by 2020, energy suppliers will need to install smart meters in domestic and smaller non-domestic premises which will communicate to the HAN wirelessly on 2.4GHz and/or 868MHz standards. Notice the latter frequency; right at the top end of the previous television UHF spectrum!

Mass rollout for the installation of smart meters is likely to commence in 2015. Click here for more information.

Some other new initiatives that are accelerating the development of the Connected Home described within the newsletter include the following highlights;

Home Automation

Home automation is an intrinsic part of the Connected Home and Google acquired a home automation company called Nest Labs earlier this year. Its main products are an interactive thermostat that can learn the behaviour of household users and a smoke alarm that has internet connectivity. This may mean that we see more HAN products and services that relate to programmable heating/cooling, possibly linking to renewable energy such as Solar PV and heat pumps, and safety/monitoring systems.

Samsung Smart Home Service

One of the challenges of ensuring that all components of the Connected Home can communicate with each other is concerning protocol and as with many aspects of consumer electronics through the past few decades, different manufacturers sometimes produce their own systems; the classic case of course is the varying VCR formats in the 1980s; VHS (JVC), Betamax (Sony) and the V2000 System (Philips). We could potentially have a similar issue with interconnectivity and Samsung have taken the lead by producing their own platform called the Samsung Smart Home Service available in the US and Korea at present. This service enables smart televisions, home appliances and smart phones to communicate with each other through their Smart Home Protocol (SHP) and will allow other manufacturers products to connect to Samsung smart home devices.

The case of the infected refrigerator may have been the first case of a cyber-attack involving smart home appliances and it indicates that as smart home products become more prevalent, complex and connectible, that they may be susceptible to this type of vulnerability. However, cyber-attacks of this type are likely to be very low level - the amount of disruption that a botnet can perform residing in a connected home is likely to be limited but it is clear that as more definition to connected home services and protocols becomes available and implemented, cyber-security of these services must also be considered and threats of this type limited.

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Comments
Tuesday, 20 May 2014
M
mark
8:59 AM

i could be in line for the £10m longitude prize.- There is already anti bacterial washig powder how about anti virus powder for smart washing machines??


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mark's 10 posts GB
S
Sharealam
2:23 PM

New channel on channel 241 called tvplayer retune required.

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Sharealam's 223 posts Silver Silver EU
Saturday, 24 May 2014
Rog Parsons
11:00 PM

So where's the law which gives householders the right to opt-out of this 'Big Brother' (I mean the genuine 1984 George Orwell version - not young big headed prats in a brain-dead TV show) idea of monitoring and dictating our lives by internet. The Internet was first mis-used by sickos - now it seems with the blessing of sicko parliament at whitehall our privacy rights remaining are being compromised too. If anyone calls at my home wanting to install sensors, monitors, programmers they are hereby warned they will be given a two word (verb and indefinate article) command no computer will recognise - but they will .........................

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Rog Parsons's 39 posts Bronze Bronze GB
Sunday, 6 July 2014
G
Gary Atdhe
8:29 PM

One day anon will get get us all in trouble when they hack something big and the gov say we cant use the net anymore.

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Gary Atdhe's 1 post GB
U
UKTV Online
8:36 PM

I dont agree gary. We are waiting for the big hack!!

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UKTV Online's 1 post HR
Tuesday, 28 October 2014
MikeP
7:52 PM

Our Samsung fridge/freezer shows both temperatures at the same time - and it's not a 'smart' fridge/freezer either.
You can manage with the RJ45 unplugged for equipment that does not really need internet acceess, such as a fridge, washing machine, toaster, kettle, cooker, etc. A PC does rather rely on that access nowadays - but never used to. Several years ago we worked with 'dumb terminals' wired to the central main frame in the office, so we couild communicate electronically across the room - but never did as talking like real humans worked better! The cloud has recently been shown to have just as many risks as any other internet connected device. There are those who think it's fun to hack things you would not normally dream of being a target!

If it doesn't need to be internet cponnected, protect it and yourself by leaving the data plug out.

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MikeP's 1,023 posts Gold Gold GB
Sunday, 15 February 2015
R
Rega
11:35 AM

Mike B: last May I commented about the fact that most fridge freezers don't have temperature displays and therefore 'connected' ones were years away. You commented back indicating that most fridge freezers had basic temperature displays. Well they don't!! I don't know what store you work in but I went to John Lewis the other day because my daughter needs a fridge freezer. After your comment I expected all of them to have temperature indicators but I found more than 50% have no display at all, just a simple control numbered 1 to 5 that tells you nothing. A digital thermometer costs only a few pounds and is hardly a new development. The only reason for not having one is to reserve the feature for the more expensive models. Since digital thermometers were probably invented 30 years or more ago (and are more of a necessity than a luxury) I expect 'connected' fridge freezers will be out of most people's price range for decades.

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Rega's 2 posts GB
M
MikeB
6:24 PM

Rega: A lot of fridge freezers dont have an external display, thats true, although I checked on the Bosch range, and they seem to have an internal screen. I suspect that not having an external display is as much for asthetic reasons as anything else. I agree that a simple 1-5 control is slightly basic, although whether its a price point thing is unclear - I'm going to do some research the next time in work!

While not as pessimistic as you are about the time csales for connected freezers, I suspect we wont see them for the next couple of years. Manufacturers need to look at the actual market, and if the smart fridge didn't really sell, then they'll try something else. In the case of Samsung, its the 'smart home' , with smart connections available for various devices, rather than building them in. Samsung seemed to have developed a 'Chef Collection' at much the same time, which was high end and seemingly sold better than Smart, so thats what they are going with. LG also seems to have been a bit quiet on the whole concept.

There are commercial smart systems around http://www.controlbyweb.c…tml, which make a huge amount of sense. If I had a catering company and large amounts of stuff in freezers, knowing their tempreture at any time sounds like a good thing! On the other hand, until we all start buying all food online with RFID chips in packaging, the smart part of most fridges will be slightly OTT.

On the other hand, your right in that a decent outward display would not go amiss. Perhaps some feedback to the manufacturers might help. This Samsung machine has exactly the sort of display which would really help the average user - Samsung RL52VPBIH1 320L Fridge Freezer | 65cmx190cm .Its odd that more manufacturers dont have such a layout, either inside or out, and save the wine rack they always ship and in our case, gets removed instantly.


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MikeB's 1,886 posts Gold Gold GB
Sunday, 22 February 2015
R
Rega
6:08 PM

Mike B: You are right about Samsung. They do a reasonably priced fridge freezer where you set the temperature for both fridge and freezer separately, which is very much like our Bosch Exxcel that we've had for a few years now. The settings are inside but that's no problem and it's probably the one I'll recommend to my daughter.

Interestingly the latest Bosch Exxcel does not have the same controls as our old one, it no longer has any setting for the fridge - a backwards step and they have lost our custom because of it. I am still bemused that such a simple and cheap device as a digital thermometer, and such an important thing when it comes to food safety, is missing from so many designs. I have one that records max and min temperature and can be switched from C to F that I have used for several years (to monitor our tortoise hibernating in the loft) and it only cost about £10.

Briantist: All this is a little irrelevant on your UK Free TV website but I do enjoy reading other parts of it as well!

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Rega's 2 posts GB
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