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While most people protect their desktop computers and laptops against hackers and other forms of cybercrime, we may not be as safe as we think. A recent study conducted at a Boston cybersecurity firm suggests hackers and other white collar criminals can gain access to our computers via our smart devices. The researchers want everyone to be aware that this vulnerability does exist.

The Connection to Cybercrime

While there aren’t any reports of cybercriminals taking advantage of these vulnerabilities, tech experts warn that the potential is present. A particularly ingenuous cybercriminal can use the interconnectivity between smart devices and computers when the two different types of devices connect to one another. For instance, using your desktop to check the status of your home security system or HVAC settings creates a link that can be exploited.

The researchers wanted to be thorough in conducting their study, so they examined the vulnerability in multiple types of devices. They tested products produced by over 150 manufacturers to establish that the cybersecurity threat was an industry-wide issue. Smart plugs, thermometers, and wireless printers were just a few of the machines tested for this vulnerability. The most prominently affected devices included surveillance cameras and remotely controlled thermostats.

A Reason For Concern

After reviewing the study, one researcher from Britain’s Bristol University found a reason for greater concern. He suggested the ease of access that this type of unprotected link provides could give criminal groups access to the infrastructure of any given city. There’s a possibility that a cybercriminal could gain access to a municipality’s water, electric, or gas supply, which could leave millions without necessary resources.

What Should Be Done?

Already looking for ways to combat this threat, computer scientists recommend that cities should eliminate internet access to these resources. The various utilities upon which cities rely should also prevent corporations from accessing them. The facilities should be independently operated with strict access control measures enforced.

As for individuals, reducing the risk is a little more complicated. Older devices rely on TCP/IP code for connections, which is up to 20 years old. This means replacing these devices with newer systems may be necessary. Unfortunately, people interested in keeping smart technology in their homes will have to wait for the tech industry to catch up. Newer protocols will have to be incorporated into future devices to ensure the products can only be used for the purposes for which they are intended.