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Is your washing machine a security risk?

Netflix hacker drama Mr Robot is so well researched that if something is possible in the show, you can be sure it s possible in real life . So the first episode of season two should give at least a moment s pause to everyone busily wiring their Amazon Dot to the Nest thermostat, Bosch smart washing machine and wi-fi-enabled kettle. A high-ranking member of the board of the show s fictional multinational corporation returns to her swanky, futuristic apartment to relax . First, her alarm goes off . Then her projector turns on by itself as a screen descends from the ceiling . She manages to turn these off, then the lights start flickering, loud music bursts from her speakers, water starts boiling and finally the phone rings . No one s on the line .

It s like a horror film . Understandably she flees.

From science fiction to science fact

In May, researchers at the University of Michigan, working with Microsoft, discovered they could pull off disturbing tricks over the internet, from triggering a smoke detector at will to planting a backdoor PIN code in a digital lock that offers silent access to your home.

If these apps are controlling non-essential things like window shades, I d be fine with that . But users need to consider whether they re giving up control of safety-critical devices, says Earlence Fernandes, one of the University of Michigan researchers . The worst-case scenario is that an attacker can enter your home at any time they want, completely nullifying the idea of a lock. The spread of the internet of things (IoT) is well underway . This year has seen Samsung debut a fridge that can play music and check the weather, LG announce a wardrobe that steams and smooths your clothes while Intel s Tiny House includes a touchpad to control music, TV and weather news.

Soon we ll be finding smart functionality in everything from baby monitors to our jackets . Some 83 million cars with smart functions, as well as 2.3 billion computers, will be sold this year, according to Niall Murphy, chief executive and co-founder of IoT smart platform EVRYTHING. His company expects to fit some kind of smart functionality to ten billion items of clothing and roughly 20 billion food and drink packaged items . Unilever sells two billion items every day, he says . As this becomes smart, it will make Unilever into one of the biggest media companies in the world.

The dangers

But there are serious privacy and security concerns . US director of national intelligence James Clapper recently told Congress that smart homes give intelligence agencies ample opportunity to spy on targets . If your smart TV is watching you, isn t that literally a scene from 1984? Mikko Hypponen, chief research officer at security firm F-Secure, sees cars as an obvious target for hackers . In 2015, hackers discovered vulnerabilities in Chrysler s Jeep Cherokee that allowed for vehicles to be controlled remotely from thousands of miles away and managed to open BMW vehicles remotely.

Someone s going to wake up one morning to do the school run and find they can t start the car until they pay up a serious amount of bitcoins, Mr Hypponen warns . The internet of things allows much more visible crimes than we re used to in the consumer space and certainly much more painful.

When it comes to the smart home, security researchers biggest fears are the ability to force entry and the chance to engage in hackers latest favourite trick, Trojan horse ransomware, which locks down computers completely until a fee is paid, usually in bitcoins. In February, hackers planted ransomware on Los Angeles hospital the Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center s main server and demanded $3.6 million to release the hospital, although chief executive Allen Stefanek negotiated the fee down to $17,000 before paying . It was the quickest and most efficient way to restore our systems and administrative functions, he says.

Dave Palmer, technology director at security firm Darktrace, warns: I suspect we ll see the automatic targeting of assets that really will affect your day-to-day life and you d pay to unlock pretty quickly . MRI scanners are often mentioned in healthcare, of course, but we should expect this to happen in the home.

Someone s going to wake up one morning and find they can t start the car until they pay up a serious amount of bitcoins

If traditional spam crooks can pivot to taking out the things that consumers really care about in their household, I think they could make a lot of money . My family would pay to restore the smart TV if it stopped working . So you ve got a $500 TV, would you not pay the extortion of $100 to get that back under your control? Dom Fendius, co-founder of connected clothing company Appaparel, adds: There s been lots of talk about a firewall for your home since I first started working in the internet of things 15 years ago .

They re still talking about it now, but there s very little out there. F-Secure does offer one solution called Sense, which routes traffic to all the smart devices in a building through a secure network, extending to mobiles when outside the building . GCHQ s controversial Great British Firewall may offer protection from international hackers, although white hat hacker Jamie Woodruff explains that it s easy to hack into any IoT network from within the UK, using simple tricks such as fake wi-fi base stations.

Graffiti attacks in Millom park spark calls for tougher security

A TOWN council has been advised to introduce new security measures in a public park after repeated acts of vandalism. Millom Town Council is discussing ways of preventing crime in Millom Park after it was daubed with graffiti on a number of occasions this month. Cumbria police have confirmed two reports of graffiti being sprayed on the path in the park on St George’s Road between October 7-10 and one more incident which saw graffiti being sprayed on the play equipment in the park between 9pm on October 13 and 8am on October 14.

Members of the council want to find ways to protect the park from more attacks. Councillor Ray Cole is frustrated by the damage and wants to highlight the issue with parents. He said: “We’re doing our best to spend public money wisely but things like this don’t help . Parents need to be made aware that they are the ones paying for this – not us.

“It’s members of the public who pay the precept and we could spend that money much more wisely elsewhere . We need to consider some security provision .

It could be CCTV or more lighting.

“It all costs money but it might be better to prevent it . We need to protect our assets.”

Councillors have discussed ideas such as installing CCTV, adding security lighting, sound deterrents or even restricting access. Councillor Denise Burness agreed with Cllr Cole and believes severe measures need to be taken. She said: “I totally agree with Councillor Cole that we need some security measures . I think CCTV might be a good idea .

Security lighting is a good idea but what’s the point ? It highlights that they are doing something but we can’t do anything else.”

In addition to introducing methods to improve security, councillors are also calling for major improvements to be made to the multi-use area. Youth councillor Ross Bawden reported in a meeting on Wednesday evening that young people in the town had complained about the state of the area.

He told councillors that complaints had been made about the fencing and the missing basketball boards and called for improvements to be made.

Cllr Burness reassured him that the council was “well aware” that it was something that needed to be tackled.

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Millions of Brits risking home security

Millions of Brits are leaving their windows and doors unlocked, leaving keys in the garden and relying on their dog to keep their home safe, a study has found. One in five leave their doors unlocked all or most of the time on a typical day and 48 per cent keep the windows open even when they aren t at home. And more than half believe their home would be safe if they accidentally left their front door unlocked during the day. One in 10 hides a key somewhere near the property, including under a plant pot and beneath a garden gnome. But the trust in the security of their home could be misplaced as the poll of 2,000 adults by Canary Home Security found that one in 10 have been victim to burglars within the past year alone. More than one in five have been so affected by burglaries they have taken time off work, while over a quarter have experienced sleeping problems and around half said they are less trusting now. And of those who have been burgled, the effects have lasted long after the event, with one in five saying their children were left unsettled or unhappy, while four per cent have needed counselling.

A spokesman for Canary Home Security said: Our home is meant to be somewhere we feel safe and secure. While it s great that we are trusting and feel safe enough to go out and leave our windows open and front door unlocked, this is leaving some of our most prized possessions at risk – especially irreplaceable sentimental items. But if your home were to be burgled, it s not just the stolen items you need to worry about.

The emotional effects can be far reaching and it can be hard to get over the feeling of knowing someone else has been in your home, where you want to feel as safe as possible. Insurance may replace the material items, but it can t re-buy the sentimental things or help you get over the intrusion of having a burglar in your home. Seven in 10 consider security at home to be of utmost importance but one in 10 have a key hidden somewhere near the property, including under a plant pot, beneath a garden gnome and even buried in a flower bed. Others leave it in the garage or outside store room, under the door mat or in the dog house. Worryingly, more than a third of the population has no special security measures in place to make sure that their possessions are safe. And 21 per cent rely on their dog to deter burglars and keep their home secure. Three times as many people think that a strong mechanical lock is more secure than a digital alarm system, and 43 per cent of respondents have never tested the home security they do have. Canary s spokesman added: Having your home broken into can be traumatic, and most people recognise that material items can be replaced, but a feeling of unease in your own home is much harder to deal with. In fact, nearly a tenth of people whose homes have been broken into have moved house after the event.

A Canary system offers peace of mind, with HD night vision and a built-in siren that can be monitored from your smartphone . With home security, prevention is definitely better than cure. TOP 10 PLACES PEOPLE LEAVE A KEY:

1 . In the garage/outside store room

2 . Under a plant pot

3 . In a keysafe

4 . Buried in the garden

5 . Under the mat

6 . Under a windowsill

7 . Inside a fake lock

8 . Under a garden gnome

9 . In a dog house

10 . Under a garden ornament


1 . A loss of confidence

2 . Overly cautious with security

3 . Have become less trusting

4 . Lost sentimental items

5 . Was unable to replace certain items

6 . Sleeping problems

7 . Took time off work

8 . Kids were unsettled or unhappy

9 .

Pet was unsettled

10 .

Difficulties with insurers