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10.5.2024 13:39

Beware of hacking risks from company’s wireless devices

Petteri Järvinen warns about risks of internet-connected smart devices.

Writer and IT expert Petteri Järvinen says that businesses may use a wide range of wirelessly connected devices, such as security cameras, which may present a risk to the company’s data security.

“Nowadays, devices like projectors are connected to Wi-Fi, and hackers hook up to them. Conference room monitors are also often online,” he says.

Even though the data security risk of a single online device may seem small, for a hacker it could be an important way into the company’s network and, through that, sensitive data such as customer registers.

“Online devices could be used to do harm elsewhere. Hackers can use a hacked device to bypass their own internet connection, making it look like the hackers originated in the company they hacked. That makes it hard for the police to find out where the hack came from.”

At worst, a hacker can use hacked devices to steal data or blackmail the company. A criminal might blackmail a company by withholding data or threatening to publish personal data.

“Wireless devices can provide ways into a company’s data system. If malware has been planted on a business owner’s laptop, hackers can enter the company’s network via that laptop,” Järvinen says.

At worst, a hacker can use hacked devices to steal data or blackmail the company.

Small company, bigger danger

Järvinen says that companies still mistakenly believe that they do not need to ensure data security in all their internet-connected devices.

“They may think that all that matters is protecting their email and the company’s website. They don’t realize that all smart devices that are in some way connected to the company’s network are potential risks. They think that their company is so small that no criminal would be interested in it. That’s dangerous thinking. Criminals don’t care whether your company is big or small. They target all companies indiscriminately.”

Järvinen says that the risk to a small company is just as big as it is to a large one.

“Perhaps even bigger, because a hack can paralyse the entire company’s operations.”

Hackers use Internet of Things (IoT) devices, such as smart TVs, internet-connected printers and projectors to carry out Denial of Service (DoS) attacks. Hackers aim to embed software on devices, from where they can continue their attacks. Järvinen says that devices can be sent fake network traffic, which they transmit onward in multiple volumes. The true target of the attack is somewhere else.

“When a company’s VPN connections and services are attacked from inside Finland, cutting off the connections creates problems for the company’s clients. That is why neutralizing attacks like these is harder than attacks from abroad: it’s easier to turn off malicious traffic from abroad without creating problems for users,” Järvinen says.

Consider whether internet connection necessary

Järvinen recommends business owners become aware of the threat and put a specific person in charge of data security updates. All smart devices should be updated from time to time.

“Smart TVs suggest updates automatically, but if no one presses OK on the remote, the update doesn’t get installed.”

Security cameras are more difficult, as they do not always automatically suggest updates.

Järvinen says that someone in the company should track how much data traffic leaves the company.

“A business owner should ask themselves whether they know the answer to this question. When the summer holiday season begins, the company should check that all devices work, see if updates are available, and examine the level of network traffic. A good idea would be for the company to have someone in its inner circle who could help examine that passwords are in order and updates downloaded and installed.”

In some cases, replacing a device with a new one could be a good step for data security. If a company uses old devices that no one pays attention to, they could be data security risks.

Järvinen urges businesses to compare its options before deciding to buy.

“For example, the vast majority of security cameras are cheap Chinese ones. There have been ones on sale that don’t even offer encrypted connections. When buying, you should think about whether your company even needs a wireless projector or smart TV. You don’t need to hook devices up to the network if you don’t need them to have an internet connection.”

The easiest way to disconnect a device from the internet is to change the network password in the base station settings.

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Pauli Reinikainen