Smart Refrigerators Are More Risky Than You Realize

Zac Amos
Smart Refrigerators Are More Risky Than You Realize
Illustration: © IoT For All

Technology has evolved so much over the years, most people and organizations now rely on it daily. Many electronics available today have smart capabilities, which means they can connect to other devices. While this function can simplify some aspects of life, IoT devices may also pose a security risk to a user’s network.

One of these devices is a refrigerator. Unfortunately, many people are unaware that a smart fridge can act as an entry point for cyber attackers. Learn why a smart refrigerator is riskier than you might think.

Smart Refrigerator Could Act as a Gateway to Your Network

The threat of smart fridges being hacked is not new. If any home appliance is compromised, it can act as a gateway for a cybercriminal to access your entire network. This can cause massive headaches. When a hacker has access to all of the devices on the same Wi-Fi network as your smart fridge, they can spread viruses and malware to each of them.

For example, cybercriminals have used smart fridges as an entry point to access a security camera and spy on people in their homes. Such refrigerators are part of the 100,000 devices that were compromised in late 2013. Proofpoint, the security firm that identified the attack, said that over 750,000 spam messages were sent. They also stated that more than 25 percent of the malicious emails came from devices other than a desktop computer or a laptop.

Do Hackers Really Target Smart Refrigerators?

Hackers can target any IoT device, even smart fridges. While the chance of someone hacking a person’s refrigerator is low, it can happen. Usually, cybercriminals focus on other electronic systems, such as security cameras or a network, but any IoT device can be at risk. 

Manufacturers may take preventive steps to stop these attacks from happening. One way smart refrigerators or any IoT device can become vulnerable is if its software is outdated. Technology is constantly evolving, which means online threats are also becoming more advanced. That’s why firmware updates are so important — they can fix security weaknesses that have been identified and prepare for new threats.

While the methods a cybercriminal uses to hack an IoT device differ, they usually involve exploiting a security weakness. In 2015, Pen Test Partners did just that at a hacking competition, targeting a Samsung smart refrigerator. While the smart device used SSL security measures, the Pen Test Partners discovered that it failed to verify SSL certificates, making it vulnerable to MITM hacking attacks. They utilized this weakness to gain access to the device.

In addition to other smart features, this home appliance could connect to a user’s Gmail calendar and display their info on the fridge’s interface. However, with the vulnerability the Pen Test Partners identified, cybercriminals could potentially hack the device and monitor it for Gmail login details. 

3 Ways To Protect Yourself Against Network Threats and The Risks of IoT Devices

While the chance of a cybercriminal hacking an individual’s smart fridge is low, the possibility does exist. That’s why taking precautions to protect IoT devices and a home network is recommended. 

1. Disconnecting Devices From The Internet

One of the best ways someone can protect themselves from any IoT device being compromised — not just a smart fridge — is to disconnect it from the internet and other electronics. Cutting off an entry point will prevent hackers from exploiting a vulnerability in the refrigerator’s security. The home appliance will still function the same way and provide many of the benefits a smart fridge offers, but it won’t be able to be used as an entry point to an entire network.

2. Install The Latest Firmware Updates

If disabling internet access is not an option, keeping IoT devices up to date with the latest firmware is always recommended. These software fixes can remedy vulnerabilities that were identified in the system. However, it is worth noting that users will face concerns about what to do if or when the manufacturer stops sending out firmware updates. 

3. Follow Cyber Security Best Practices

One of the best things a user can do is to implement cybersecurity and network best practices at their home or business. For example, encrypting all data on a network or installing anti-virus software to protect it from becoming a security risk. 

Additionally, users can utilize a few cybersecurity best practices to protect themselves from online threats:

  • Use strong passwords for devices and the wireless network.
  • Implement virtual private network (VPN) software.
  • Change passwords frequently.
  • Keep systems updated.
  • Utilize multi-factor authentication.
  • Install anti-virus software and firewalls.

The Risk of Using Smart Refrigerators

While smart fridges have many associated benefits, the possibility exists that a hacker could use them as an entry point to a network. That’s why users should get on board with preventive measures to ensure this risk does not become a reality. When people follow best practices, they can rest assured that their IoT devices are well protected.

Zac Amos
Zac Amos - Features Editor, ReHack
Zac Amos is the Features Editor at ReHack, where he writes about all things tech-related, from cybersecurity to AI to IoT.
Zac Amos is the Features Editor at ReHack, where he writes about all things tech-related, from cybersecurity to AI to IoT.