Archive: August 2018

IoT devices, they’re smart, stylish but not secure! Now they can melt down the power grid.
I Spy With My Little Phone – New Laws giving access to your phone data

IoT devices, they’re smart, stylish but not secure! Now they can melt down the power grid.

By Cameron Abbott and Jessica McIntosh

Internet-of–things (IoT) devices are considered part and parcel of modern day living, however it can no longer be overlooked, this so called ‘smart technology’ continues to spark serious security concerns. Until recently concerns centred on individual security and privacy, now Princeton University has widen the scope and found (if compromised) IoT devices have the potential to disrupt the power grid. It’s worth repeating, researchers at Princeton University last week presented at the 27th USENIX Security Symposium in Baltimore (US) and stated high – wattage IoT devices, dubbed BlackIoT, pose a significant risk to power grids. As a result, local power outages and large-scale blackouts could be a likely consequence of compromised IoT devices.

This new type of attack, labelled the ‘manipulation of demand via IoT’ (MadIoT) involves attackers leveraging a botnet, powered by Wi-Fi enabled high- wattage devices such as air conditioners and heaters to manipulate the power demand in the grid. This allows an attacker to hijack the devices in totality and simultaneously switch them on or off.

The scenario played out was ‘if the sudden increase in demand is greater than the threshold, it can cause the system’s frequency to drop considerably before primary controllers can react’. This instability can result in the activation of the generators’ protective relays, loss of generators and finally a blackout. Whilst it is estimated an attacker would need a botnet of approximately 90,000 air conditioners and 18,000 heaters within a specified geographical area, experts say this is by no means an impossible task.

The newly discovered vulnerability reinforces how important it is that consumers and companies alike perform their own due diligence with respect to integrating IoT devices, time and time again we are seeing these devices being stylish and trendy but not well secure. Therefore, assumptions can no longer be made regarding the adequacy of in built security – instead manufactures must recognise the importance of secure coding practices so this new type of abuse can be easily detected and dealt with. Government sponsored attacks would find these forms of vulnerability very attractive.

I Spy With My Little Phone – New Laws giving access to your phone data

By Cameron Abbott and Colette Légeret

Yesterday, the Australian Government unveiled the draft Telecommunications and Other Legislation Amendment (Assistance and Access) Bill 2018 which aims to compel telecommunication and multi-national tech companies (Providers) to give law enforcement and security agencies (Agencies) access to personal encrypted data of suspected criminals, including terrorists, child sex offenders and criminal organisations.

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By Cameron Abbott and Jessica McIntosh

Over the last two months a string of fake banking apps have hit the Google Play store, leaving many customers wondering whether they have been affected by the scam. A report by security firm ESET found users of three Indian banks were targeted by the apps which all claimed to increase credit card limits, only to convince customers to divulge their personal data, including credit card and internet banking details. The impact of this scam was heightened as the data stolen from unsuspecting customers was then leaked online by way of an exposed server.

The report claims these apps all utilise the same process:

  1. Once the app is downloaded and launched a form appears which asks the user to fill in credit card details (including credit card number, expiry date, CVV and login credentials)
  2. Once the form is completed and submitted a pop up customer service box is displayed
  3. The pop up box thanks users for their interest in the bank and indicates a ‘Customer Service Executive’ will be in contact shortly
  4. In the meantime, no representative makes contact with the customer and the data entered into the form is sent back to the attacker’s server – IN PLAIN TEXT.

The ESET report alarming revealed that the listing of stolen data on the attacker’s server is accessible to anyone with the link to the data, this means sensitive stolen personal data was available to absolutely anyone who happens to comes across it.

Whilst, the reality is any app on your personal smartphone may place your phone and personal data at risk, (as discussed here ‘Research Reports say risks to smartphone security aren’t phoney‘)

Customers can mitigate risk by:

  • only using their financial institutions official banking apps, these are downloadable from the relevant institution’s official website;
  • paying attention to the ratings, customer reviews when downloading from Google Play;
  • implementing security controls on your smartphone device from a reputable mobile security provider; and
  • contracting their financial institution directly to seek further guidance on the particular banking apps in use.


It cannot be overlook, whilst Google Play moved quickly to remove the apps we query how it was so easy for cyber criminals to launch fake apps on Google Play in the first place.

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