Cryptocurrency Price Surge Could Lead to Hacked Smart Homes


· January 9, 2018 · 10:30 am

A security expert says that rising cryptocurrency prices can lead to a surge in cryptojacking of people’s smart homes.

If there’s one thing that movies have educated us on, it’s that there’s always some form of unintended consequences when it comes to new technology. Usually this comes in the form of horrific doom as mankind is wiped out by killer robots or some terrible plague. Yet there are some unforeseen events that can occur as people begin to accept and embrace something that appears initially mundane, such as smart appliances in one’s home. One interesting possibility with some slightly sinister overtones is that a person’s smart home could be attacked via cryptojacking due to the exploding price in Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.

Increased Tech Means Increased Vulnerability

Technology has become an integral part of our everyday lives, from smart phones to streaming movies at home. The normal person looks to harness the power of technology to make their life easier and more fulfilling, but others look to harness technology to put money in their pockets. While such an attitude isn’t a bad thing on the surface, the method that they use to do so can be. Case in point is people hijacking the tech of others to surreptitiously mine cryptocurrency.

The increasing value of cryptocurrency means that it can be very profitable to mine crypto, especially if you’re not paying for the equipment or power to do so. One common means that illicit miners use is to slip some code onto a website to harness the computers of those visiting the site. A popular choice is the Coin Hive malware that has been found on many sites, including that of the UFC. Without any consent or knowledge, your computer could be tasked to mine for some crypto.

However, such mining hacks don’t end there. Your smart phone may be infected as well. 2017 saw a 34% surge in mobile apps that featured code for mining cryptocurrencies. Even the insanely popular Facebook Messenger app was found to have been infected with a crypto mining hack. Now this illicit mining can even have an impact upon your home.

Home Sweet Home

The latest possible target, according to some security experts, for illicit crypto miners is your smart home. It seems that smart devices can be the target of cryptojacking, where your internet-connected appliances could be used to mine various virtual currencies. Such devices can include light bulbs, cameras, and even thermostats.

The director of advisory services for EMEA at cyber security firm IOActive, Neil Haskins, told The Independent:

Any device that is ‘smart’ now has the three key ingredients to provide the cyber bad guy with everything they need – internet access, power and processing.

I can introduce my crypto-mineware via a compromised mobile phone and start to exploit the processing power of your home devices to mine bitcoin.

The results can be massively higher energy costs for the home owner. The really bad part is that they’re still on the hook for it as the power is being used. The insidious part is that such illicit crypto mining could go on for months without being detected. Who checks to see if their smart refrigerator is being used to mine Monero or some other cryptocurrency?

Haskins says that there are some ways to protect one’s home. He says that consumers should demand a security rating in addition to a smart appliance’s power efficiency. He also adds:

In the meantime, consider the entry point for most cyber bad guys. Generally, this is your desktop, laptop or mobile device. Therefore, ensure you have suitable security products running on these devices, make sure they are patched to the correct levels, and be conscious of the websites you are visiting. If you control the available entry points, you will go a long way to protecting your home.

The bad news is that some crook could cost you a higher energy bill while he makes bank off of your home through cryptojacking your smart devices. On the plus side, at least your smart home won’t be going berserk and trying to kill you like in a horror movie.

How possible is it for the average person to safeguard their smart home from illicit crypto miners? Are you worried about your home? Let us know in the comments below.

Images courtesy of Pixabay and Bitcoinist archives.

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