Cyber criminals target online devices

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Staff Reporter

Windhoek – Cyber criminals could be hacking a range of gadgets to blackmail people, security chiefs have warned. Among the range of gadgets that hackers are targeting to steal personal details, are smartphones, watches and televisions, according to a joint report by the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre and the National Crime Agency.

There are already warnings that baby monitors are at risk of being hacked by paedophiles, while pacemakers could be targeted to steal confidential health records, the UK’s Sun newspaper has reported.

The report follows last week’s revelations by Wikileaks that accuses the American spy agency, CIA, and other world spy agencies of running a secret computer hacking programme giving its agents access to everyday items including mobile phones, iPads, and smart TVs. Wikileaks also claims software was developed to turn Samsung smart TVs into listening devices in a project codenamed Weeping Angel, which the report claims also included input from the UK’s MI5.

That statement prompted Apple and Samsung to issue statements of reassurance to customers. Samsung said it is “urgently” investigating the claims from WikiLeaks that intelligence agencies have used the firm’s smart TVs as part of tools to spy on users. “Protecting consumers’ privacy and the security of our devices is a top priority at Samsung,” the company said in a statement.

“We are aware of the report in question and are urgently looking into the matter.”
Apple said many of the issues laid out in the documents were dealt with some time ago. The iPhone maker cited updates to the iOS operating system used on its handsets.
“While our initial analysis indicates that many of the issues leaked today were already patched in the latest iOS, we will continue to work to rapidly address any identified vulnerabilities,” Apple said in a statement.

Apple noted that nearly 80 percent of users are running the latest version of its operating system, and said its security measures are designed to get updates to the software out quickly.

Meanwhile, security experts believe a massive 21 billion connected devices will be used by businesses and consumers around the world.

The study from Britain’s cyber defence bosses warns that the sharp rise in smart devices is opening up a whole new range of opportunities for cyber criminals to use their increasingly “aggressive” and “confrontational” tactics to commit extortion and fraud.

The report warns users that data stolen may not be valuable to be sold on black market forums but could be “sufficiently valuable to the victim that they will be willing to pay for it”.

“Ransomware on connected watches, fitness trackers and TVs will present a challenge to manufacturers, and it is not yet known whether customer support will extend to assisting with unlocking devices and providing advice on whether to pay a ransom,” the report said. – Compiled from various sources and news agencies.

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