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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, 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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Tuesday, 13 May 2014

12:18 PM

mark: ... Insert drum sting!

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Briantist's 38,915 posts GB flag
6:33 PM

I suppose a Smart fridge is very clever, but what about it "freezing" as you go to use it!!!

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Peter's 4 posts GB flag
Wednesday, 14 May 2014
6:35 PM

the nest protect smoke alarm has been recalled, full details available from: CEO | Nest

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Nathan's 2 posts GB flag
Thursday, 15 May 2014
8:59 AM

On BBC Breakfast Currys PC World and Carphone warehouse announced a merger. They will be know as Currys -Carphone (what about PC world?)Their CEO says the justification is mainly because we all want "connected" appliances via mobiles. How far are we really from "Beam me up Scotty!"

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mark's 11 posts GB flag

5:08 PM

mark: If you have an Android phone, you can ask it (it's an Easter Egg).

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Briantist's 38,915 posts GB flag
Sunday, 18 May 2014
9:49 AM

heading back to the issue of the infected fridge, this issue here is not the breachable security, it is the global failure to tackle cyber criminals. We all spend all our lives attempting to protect ourselves from hackers and fraudsters when in actual fact we should not need to. In an ideal world the global community should be tracking them down and treating them the same as terrorists or drug dealers, or is an acceptable occupation now, as it is probably more lucrative than what I do for an honest living..
Your thoughts...

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Smiffy1968's 2 posts GB flag
12:11 PM

I don't think this is too much to worry about. Last year I wanted a fridge/freezer with a temperature display for both. After all surely temperature is the most important thing to know about with one of these. I could hardly find one. This makes me wonder who could possibly have a fridge like the one mentioned in the article - a billionaire IT whizz I guess - so who cares. If you can't get a thermometer on your fridge how long will it be until we get home network fridges for the masses?

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Rega's 1 post GB flag

7:53 PM

To me this can be a non-issue as the safest way to avoid such pitfalls is to not connect the equipment to the internet at all. So don't put the RJ45 plug in and don't enable the WiFi. Thus not access for the nefarious.
You cannot every prevent some people (described variously as fools, idiots, brain-dead, nasty, etc) from attempting to do things that hurt/harm other people and doing it via the internet is the current 'in thing' to do. Next week/year they will have something else to amuse their brain cells.
All we can do is to protect ourselves by not offering them any access mechanism, so don't plug in the internet.

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MikeP's 3,056 posts GB flag

9:46 PM

Smiffy1968: In a 'perfect world', we wouldn't have crime at all, but since we have had crime since the dawn of time, I'm not optimistic that the global community is any more capable of tracking down all fraudsters, any more than it is all drug dealers or terrorists. Alas, we do not live in a perfect world.

Rega, pretty much all fridge/freezers with an LCD readout will give you a temp. display for both compartments - mine certainly does, and its bog standard. True, its not normally possible to see them both at the same time (which would be a help), but if I press a button at the top of my fridge/freezer, it will go from the freezer temp to the fridge temp.

If you do want a fridge which gives you both temps at once, then the Samsung Smart fridge is exactly what you want! Some like this machine even has an 8in screen 30 cu. ft. Side by Side Refrigerator and 8" LCD Digital Display with Apps | Samsung Refrigerators RSG309AARS (which has a very nice display showing both temps) and of course there is an app….aus

And this is the way things are going. In fact someone in the white goods department of the store where I work sold the first Samsung Smart washing machine in the UK, Europe or possibly the world (the Samsung reps story was a little jumbled..). Within five years, this will probably be standard on most machines.

MikeP - much as we would like to disconnect ourselves from the web, increasingly its not practical for most of us, if only because using email, the web, Iplayer, Spotify, etc is so useful. The best we can do, as yo say, is to give hackers as small a target as possible, and gurad ourselves as best we can.

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MikeB's 2,579 posts GB flag
Monday, 19 May 2014
10:37 PM

still think shooting the odd hacker or fraudster would scare some of the others off!

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Smiffy1968's 2 posts GB flag
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