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Hackers in your home - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Hackers in your home

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BURLINGTON, Vt. -

You can buy refrigerators that order your groceries, beds that track your sleep, watches that turn into your car keys and personal assistants that will answer any questions you could possibly think of. Sure, they make our lives a whole lot easier, but what are we sacrificing for that convenience?

Jonathan Rajewski is really good at finding things online you probably wouldn't want him to see.

"I actually found someone's solar system. Their solar system connected to their home," said Rajewski.

He also found a live feed from a home security camera somewhere in Vermont.

"No username or password. It is literally exposed," said Rajewski.

If this cybersecurity expert can spy on you, he says so can burglars and cyberattackers, thanks to your smart devices.

"Which is frightening," said Rajewski. 

Alexa, the voice service that powers Echo, may seem harmless and even helpful.

"If you want that convenience there's a flipside to that. There is a potential security vulnerability with these devices and you have to be aware of that," said Rajewski. 

Think of these internet-connected gadgets as little computers constantly storing and processing information about you. You would never buy a house without a lock, so why not have the same security standards for the smart devices you plug into your home?

"It's scary. You don't really know if they're safe. You are trusting the company to make sure it's safe, trusting the company with your data," said Rajewski.

The bad guys out there waiting to attack are using you to commit crimes.

"It's a big problem," said Rajewski.

Here's how he says it works: they'll hack into a smart device like your internet baby monitor. It's easier to infiltrate than your computer. Once they break in, they not only control yours but the 1 million models just like it sold across the country. Those monitors become foot soldiers in a global army-for-hire programmed to attack enemy websites.

"If someone can compromise all of them and then sell it to the highest bidder, that's how they make their money," said Rajewski. 

The attackers can use these hijacked smart devices to slow down or shut down websites, sometimes even disabling the pay functions. Corporations are common targets. Twitter and Netflix have both been hit. Once an attack is launched, it's nearly impossible to stop. And you would never even know your device is fighting for the bad guys.

So how would my smart devices stand up to Rajewski's skills?

"It looks like you have a device that has an open port," said Rajewski. 

And if it still has the manufacturer's password, you're in trouble.

Rajewski: And if someone can find it, which is typically just a Google search away, someone could log into this device. 

Reporter Jenifer Costa: That's not good.

Rajewski: No. 

Experts say the best safeguard is ditching your smart devices. But let's admit it, we're addicted to these things. So if you have them, secure them.

Experts say short of tossing all your beloved gadgets in the trash, you can protect your privacy and personal information if you:

  • Buy reputable brands that have been security tested.
  • Avoid devices sold on crowdfunding websites.
  • Change default usernames and passwords.
  • Use pass phrases over passwords.
  • Always update your smart device apps.
  • Consider replacing old devices-- experts say those are the most vulnerable to attack.
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