Cybercrime 2016: Paper-boy refrigerator revenge

Watch your cars, petrol pumps, and the kid in the basement

Crime is about opportunity and motive. In the security world of 2016, a multitude of connected, embedded devices with standardised interfaces will provide an opportunity for anyone with a motive — no matter how petty.

"The tools have gotten easy, so your motivations for crime will mirror your motivations for traditional crime," said Michael Fey, McAfee's worldwide senior vice president of advanced technologies and field engineering.

"Yeah, you'll see financial, you'll see espionage, you'll see cyberwar, you'll see all that stuff. But you'll [also] see revenge, you'll see boredom."

"You could be talking about your paper boy you didn't give a tip to," he told CSO Online. "My neighbour's have their Wi-Fi wide open. If they don't keep their grass the right way, do I retaliate with them and shut down their refrigerator? Right, is there a command I can send there?"

The key trends that could make this scenario possible are cheap wireless connectivity, the adoption of standard internet protocols for communication, and a decreasing number of embedded systems vendors.

"Many devices are using wireless connections to reduce the cost of the device, so you don't have all these wires to run around, all these things to connect. When they establish that connection approach, there's an access point. And what might that be used for? It really depends on your goal in life," Fey said.

"It was a lot harder where every device you had to look at had some bizarre connection approach, had some specific cord, and all this other stuff. For your average hacker to go in and spend the time to do that, there had to be a really big golden ticket at the end," he said.

Now, though, the embedded market is starting to be won by just a few companies. Once a vulnerability is found in one system, hackers can start looking at others from the same vendor and, as Fey puts it, "get as creative as you want".

"Gasoline pump? Maybe you could steal credit cards, maybe you could get cheap gas," he said. "The refrigerator gets a lot more interesting when it's ordering groceries and there's a payment being made there, and I can steal your payment information from that."

Multifunction printers are another good example. Most people don't think of them as a computer, let alone as a potential data exfiltration point. Yet the printer may see as much data as anything else on the network — and it comes with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

"A refrigerator is such a bizarre example," Fey said. "I think your alarm system would be more fun, don't you? If everybody with a big alarm company got hacked into and all of a sudden everybody's sirens were going off? That'd be a lot more fun."

"I'm always waiting for the attack where somebody targets an organisation just to mess with their stock price," he said.

LulzSec says they didn't do anything with the information they allegedly stole from Sony. And they didn't have to. The point was made. Sony suffered a massive loss of face — and a massive bill to fix the problems and compensate the victims.

"I don't have to hack you, probably, to get to your car. I hack the big cloud of cars," Fey said. "So if I want, I can drop GM's share price pretty dramatically when every GM car gets recalled because its airbags just fired off."

Stilgherrian is attending McAfee's Focus 11 security conference in Las Vegas as their guest.

Contact Stilgherrian at or follow him on Twitter at @stilgherrian

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags securitycybercrime

More about etworkMcAfee AustraliaSony

Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

Editor's Recommendations

Solution Centres

Stories by Stilgherrian

Latest Videos

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Will your data protection strategy be enough when disaster strikes?

    Speakers: - Paul O’Connor, Engagement leader - Performance Audit Group, Victorian Auditor-General’s Office (VAGO) - Nigel Phair, Managing Director, Centre for Internet Safety - Joshua Stenhouse, Technical Evangelist, Zerto - Anthony Caruana, CSO MC & Moderator

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: The Human Factor - Your people are your biggest security weakness

    ​Speakers: David Lacey, Researcher and former CISO Royal Mail David Turner - Global Risk Management Expert Mark Guntrip - Group Manager, Email Protection, Proofpoint

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Current ransomware defences are failing – but machine learning can drive a more proactive solution

    Speakers • Ty Miller, Director, Threat Intelligence • Mark Gregory, Leader, Network Engineering Research Group, RMIT • Jeff Lanza, Retired FBI Agent (USA) • Andy Solterbeck, VP Asia Pacific, Cylance • David Braue, CSO MC/Moderator What to expect: ​Hear from industry experts on the local and global ransomware threat landscape. Explore a new approach to dealing with ransomware using machine-learning techniques and by thinking about the problem in a fundamentally different way. Apply techniques for gathering insight into ransomware behaviour and find out what elements must go into a truly effective ransomware defence. Get a first-hand look at how ransomware actually works in practice, and how machine-learning techniques can pick up on its activities long before your employees do.

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Get real about metadata to avoid a false sense of security

    Speakers: • Anthony Caruana – CSO MC and moderator • Ian Farquhar, Worldwide Virtual Security Team Lead, Gigamon • John Lindsay, Former CTO, iiNet • Skeeve Stevens, Futurist, Future Sumo • David Vaile - Vice chair of APF, Co-Convenor of the Cyberspace Law And Policy Community, UNSW Law Faculty This webinar covers: - A 101 on metadata - what it is and how to use it - Insight into a typical attack, what happens and what we would find when looking into the metadata - How to collect metadata, use this to detect attacks and get greater insight into how you can use this to protect your organisation - Learn how much raw data and metadata to retain and how long for - Get a reality check on how you're using your metadata and if this is enough to secure your organisation

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them Featuring: • John Baird, Director of Global Technology Production, Deutsche Bank • Samantha Macleod, GM Cyber Security, ME Bank • Sherrod DeGrippo, Director of Emerging Threats, Proofpoint (USA)

    Play Video

More videos

Blog Posts

Market Place