DefCon Conference Report: Your Home Router and Even Your Appliances are Vulnerable to Hackers


Recently, 15,000 hackers and security experts gathered in Las Vegas for DefCon 21, an annual conference where all the new hacking exploits and computer vulnerabilities are discussed.

While attendees learn how to wage new attacks on many systems, the conference also discusses how to prevent these attacks.

You probably know that computers can be hacked. But you might be surprised to hear that your telephone, smart car, and yes, even your toilet can also be hacked.

Routers May Be Vulnerable

Jake Holcomb, the lead wifi router vulnerability researcher at the Independent Security Evaluators research firm, presented a study which detailed 56 new vulnerabilities he found in popular routers, including the Asus RT-AC66U, D-Link DIR-865L, and TrendNet TEW-812DRU.

We tend to not think about our router safety. Holcomb explained that the problem is that most small business and home routers use weak passwords, or the same password across multiple stores.

Hackers can go to any store that has a wifi network, and then after getting access to that network, simply use of the vulnerabilities that Holcomb found to access all of the router’s web traffic.

While we have learned to keep our computer automatically updated with new security updates, we tend to overlook router safety. Usually we turn it on and forget about it.

And this needs to change. Holcomb believes that the answer lies in router manufacturers sending automatic updates to consumers. For some reason, these manufactures have been reluctant to do this. Hopefully this will change in the future.

Help, My Toilet Was Hacked!

It may seem like a joke, but it’s true: in the future, your toilet could get hacked. Defcon presenters detailed how more and more of the technology we use in daily life is being computerized, and any computer system is vulnerable to attack.

In addition to smart toilets, the list of things that either have been hacked or may be hacked in the near future includes driver-less cars, ATMs, pacemakers, refrigerators, heating systems, toasters, digital cameras, children’s toys, TVs — even baby monitors!

Luckily, most of these hacking attempts have only been attempted by a few people who are only doing it for fun. And many of these people do it to help manufacturers identity security flaws that ultimately improve their products.

But this doesn’t mean that the threats aren’t real, or that we shouldn’t take them seriously. We should assume that any new smart device is vulnerable to hackers, and take steps to ensure that all of our technology is safe.

Someday soon, we might even be buying antivirus software for our toaster, or a firewall for our toilet.

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Kent Lawson

Kent Lawson is the CEO & Chairman of Private Communications Corporation and creator of its flagship software PRIVATE WiFi. He combined his extensive business and technical experience to develop PRIVATE WiFi in 2010. The software is an easy-to-use Virtual Private Network (VPN) that protects your sensitive personal information whenever you’re connected to a public WiFi network. Follow Kent on Twitter: @KentLawson.

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