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Hackers Make the First-Ever Ransomware for Smart Thermostats
Written by 
Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai

Staff Writer

 
August 7, 2016 // 10:00 AM EST

http://motherboard.vice.com/read/internet-of-things-ransomware-smart-thermostat

One day, your thermostat will get hacked by some cybercriminal hundreds of miles away who will lock it with malware and demand a ransom to get it back to normal, leaving you literally in the cold until you pay up a few hundred dollars.

This has been a scenario that security experts have touted as one of the theoretical dangers of the rise of the Internet of Things, internet-connected devices that are often insecure. On Saturday, what sounds like a Mr. Robot plot line came one step closer to being reality, when two white hat hackers showed off the first-ever ransomware that works against a “smart” device, in this case a thermostat.

The ransomware message that Tierney and Munro were able to display on the vulnerable thermostat. (Image: Ken Munro)

Luckily, Andrew Tierney and Ken Munro, the two security researchers who created the ransomware, actually have no ill intention. They just wanted to make a point: some Internet of Things devices fail to take simple security precautions, leaving users in danger.

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The thermostat in question has a large LCD display, runs the operating system Linux, and has an SD card that allows users to load custom settings or wallpapers. The researchers found that the thermostat didn’t really check what kind of files it was running and executing. In theory, this would allow a malicious hacker to hide malware into an application or what looks like a picture and trick users to transfer it on the thermostat, making it run automatically.

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