The Internet of Things: Breaking Down Hacks and Security

An unassuming, internet-connected toaster is sitting on a kitchen counter when it is assaulted, over and over, with “root” and “xc3511” login credentials. The toaster, however, isn’t real – it’s a honeypot living on a virtual server hosted by Amazon, tracking each attempt to hack it.

The experiment was set up by The Atlantic’s Andrew McGill, which saw the first attack just 41 minutes after going live, and more than 300 IP addresses tried to gain access by the end of the day – which works out to about 27 attacks per hour. The attacks were likely made automatically by Mirai, the malware that was at the heart of the mid-October distributed denial of service attack on Dyn, targeting DNS servers – the “phone book” of the internet translating text URLs to IP addresses – and slowing or blocking access to major websites including Paypal, Twitter, Spotify, Reddit, and Netflix. The open-source malware can be set to automatically scan the internet, specifically for Internet of Things devices, to hack. With estimates of 28 to 30 billion connected devices by 2020, the danger will only increase.


Before getting into what hackers could use exploited IoT devices for, it’s important to see how they were hacked. The October DDoS attack was the first major, widespread attack to utilize IoT devices, and many were webcams and CCTV cameras. The connection is the chip set used in the cameras, made by Chinese manufacturer Hangzhou Xiongmai Technology Co., or XM. These are sold to camera manufacturers. In the aftermath of the attack, the company is recalling millions of devices, but suspects only about 10,000 are vulnerable.

The cameras were made up to 2014. Those with firmware from 2015 and beyond should not be affected by Mirai. The recall only affects a fraction of the 17.6 billion devices currently in use, but consider only about 0.000026 percent of IoT devices were used in the October hack.

The problem, security analyst Brian Krebs noted, was that the password, “xc3511,”  that all the XM devices use by default, is hardcoded into the firmware. Even if the user changes the password, the default password will still work.

Security analyst Ben Dickson wrote that “one of the fundamental problems with IoT security is that the developers often come from an unconnected background, such as embedded systems, which means they have the knowhow to provide functionality but aren’t versed in the principles to write secure code for connected environments.” He also noted that security is neglected in the face of costs and deadlines.


Much like the poor virtual toaster, that’s how some 460,000 IoT devices were used in the DDoS attack. But it wasn’t just cameras – devices ranging from thermostats to DVRs were used in the massive attack. It wasn’t the first attack using IoT cameras, either. In late September, about 150,000 cameras and digital recorders were used to attack, French entrepreneur Octave Klaba’s website. He took to Twitter, noting that at one point, his site was hit with nearly 1 terabyte of information per second – at only a quarter of what was used against Dyn.

In 2013, it took a server just 44 minutes to scan every IP address on the internet. Now, Mirai users are only scanning IP addresses associated with IoT devices to create botnets for DDoS attacks – or other sinister deeds.


Stampado, a budget-friendly piece of ransomware at only $39, is being sold in the dark corners of the internet. The software locks files on a computer, giving the owner 96 hours to pay up. After the time limit is up, it deletes random files every 6 hours. For comparison, Locky, which shut down hospitals by locking out patient records, goes for about $3,000.

Imagine if a hacker, using cheap software, scanned the internet, found your IoT thermostat, turned the heat up to unbearable temperatures in the middle of summer, and demanded payment to unlock the device. Or worse, you are on vacation and the same scenario happens. Pay up, or be saddled with a high energy bill and melted personal items all over the house.

Not scary enough? Hackers have already proven they can remotely hack internet-enabled cars. What if the autopilot feature of a Tesla was hacked, the doors locked, and you are driven to the middle of the desert? While only 2 percent of cars were connected to the internet in 2012, and 10 percent the next year, Spanish company Telefonica estimated in 2013 that about 90 percent would be connected in 2020.


Hacking doesn’t happen in a vacuum. When exploits are found they are often closed. Tesla quickly closed an exploit after hackers released a how-to guide – probably preventing the above scenario from happening in the first place.

Meanwhile, Microsoft is adding Bitlocker and Secure Boot to Windows 10 IoT Core. The change is mostly aimed at DIYers and home hackers, with Windows 10 IoT offered as a bundle with a Raspberry Pi 2 microcomputer. Learning to code for the IoT can give you more control over your device, also increasing security. Securing your router will also turn away the vast majority of automated hacking attempts.

Finally, IBM is experimenting with blockchains to track important items. A current application is tracking where a diamond came from – suppliers can then deny the diamonds if they are from an area that uses forced labor to mine diamonds, or if the sales fund violence. This could be used by manufacturers to monitor where parts in devices come from, to identify potential weak spots in security – and prevent hacking even before the consumer buys the product. If a blockchain was in place, it could have been used to track the pre-2015 XM chipsets, to identify exactly which cameras they were used in, and aid the manufacturer in a recall. Or, a company could decide not to use the chipset, based on its point of origin. The technology is secure – it’s used to track bitcoins – and extremely hard to alter or delete information after it is added by a trusted source.

The IoT is growing fast, and security is trying to catch up. According to Maryville University, cyber attacks cost upwards of $400 billion each year. There is potential for great harm through ransomware, or even shutting down the internet for a wide swath of users. There are bound to be more attacks before security catches up – but securing your network will go a long way to protecting your toaster.

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Posted on Categories Gadgets, Security

Video Cameras Review: Finding the Best Video Camera for You

Video camera is a perfect gadget to capture the best moments of your trip, a special occasion or even your daily routine in life.  It helps you record special moments so you could go back to it and reminisce. You may also share these moments with people you love who may be far from you at the moment.

In this post, we will share to you some reviews of video cameras to help you find the most suitable one for you that fits your needs and your lifestyle.

  1. Sony PJ530

If you’re after a high-quality video-recording performance, then you can never go wrong with Sony PJ530. It records 1080p video at 50fps. This is perfect for professional shoots with its 30x optical zoom feature that goes to 60x without breaking up. Another feature that you will surely enjoy is the USB tail, which allows you to easily plug it into a computer for easier transfer of captured videos. This is definitely perfect for every day use, and for professional shoots.

  1. Panasonic HC-VX870EB-K

Do you have a tight budget? Do not worry because you can still find a camera that performs well. With Panasonic HC-VX870EB-K, you can record at 4K at 25fps, and you can extract individual frames at 8-megapixel. You will also love the 20x optical zoom feature as well as 5-axis optical image stabiliser solution, which allows you to combine footage from your smartphone as a picture in picture through WI-FI connection. And all those features you can enjoy at a low price. This model is probably one of the most affordable ones in the market that you can still consider for it’s reliable performance. This is perfect to use for family outings.

  1. JVC Everio FZ-R315DEK

If you are looking for the traditional feel of a camcorder, then this one is perfect for you. This model is very sturdy and can survive challenging outdoor trips. You will definitely love the long-life battery that can last up to 5 hours. Not bad really. It has 10-megapixel feature for still photos and zoom microphone feature in case you are doing video production.

  1. Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4 4K Camera

This model is a hybrid camera designed for professional photo shoots and video recording. It is perfect for out of town trips with friends and family. It has 16.05-megapixel Digital Live MOS sensor and 4-CPU venus engine that allows capturing of JPEG and RAW photos in high resolution. It is indeed one of the best 4K cameras you can find today.

  1. GoPro Hero4 Silver

For people who love to travel and do outdoor activities, GoPro camera is definitely perfect. Hero4 Silver records up to 4K at 15fps and 1080p at 60fps and 720p at 120fps. You will be able to record high-quality videos with its top-notch image sensor and processor. It is very convenient to bring anywhere too. This is indeed the perfect camera for people with active and adventurous lifestyle.

Hopefully this post would help you find a video camera that is best for you. Do not hesitate to make comparisons first between different models to ensure that you will buy a reliable one.

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Posted on Categories GadgetsTags

Japan Smartphone Market Share By Shipments

In the quarter ending March 2010, Apple shipped 1.69 million iPhone units to Japan. This accounted for 72% of all smartphones shipped to the country in the three months.

According to a research by MM Research Institute Ltd, here is how the smartphone market share by shipments stand in Japan at the moment

1. iPhone : 72%
2. HTC : 11%
3. Toshiba : 6.8%

Japan is seeing a huge increase in smartphone growth.

Number of smartphones shipped 2009-2010 fiscal : 2.34 million (nearly 100% growth)
Estimated demand for smartphones in 2010-2011 fiscal : 3 million

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Posted on Categories Gadgets

US Smartphone Ownership Penetration Forecast

Attractive features, the app economy trend, affordable prices and a whole lot of other factors have all helped in expediting the adoption rate of smartphones among the people. At the end of the last quarter, 21% of mobile phone users in the US had a smartphone. In just few more quarters, that number is projected to more than double to 49%!

A study by Nielsen projects 1 in 2 American mobile phone user to own a smartphone by the Christmas season next year. Considering that close to 50% of the worldwide smartphone market share (by web traffic) is held by Apple, we wonder how much will Apple benefit from this astronomical growth.

Here are the projected smartphone ownership percentage among American mobile phone users as studied and projected by Nielsen


E-Reader Brand Awareness

Apple iPad has generated a lot of buzz and though that is not strictly an eReader, it goes without saying that the ebook reading population is a primary target audience for the tablet device. However, how much are people aware of the iPad vis-a-vis other eReaders in the market like Kindle and Nook? A study by Comscore finds out in a survey

Amazon Kindle : 65%
Apple iPad : 65%
Sony Reader : 39%
B&N Nook : 28%
Samsung Papyrus : 11%

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Mobile Phone Penetration : Country Rankings

China and India are among the countries with the fastest growth in mobile phones. However, when it comes to its penetration in the market, these countries still lag; which also speaks of the opportunities that exist in these markets.

Here is a ranking of the top 40 countries in terms of “number of mobile phones per 100 people”. Do note that this does not exactly translate into mobile phone users since in many Indian families, one cell phone can be used by more than one person.

1. Taiwan : 106.45
2. Luxembourg : 101.34
3. Hong Kong : 92.98
4. Italy : 92.65
5. Iceland : 90.28
6. Sweden : 88.5
7. Czech Republic : 84.88
8. Finland : 84.5
9. UK : 84.89
10. Norway : 84.33
11. Greece : 83.86
12. Denmark : 83.33
13. Austria : 82.85
14. Spain : 82.28
15. Portugal : 81.94
16. Singapore : 79.14
17. Switzerland : 78.75
18. Belgium : 78.63
19. Ireland : 75.53
20. Netherlands : 72.24
21. Germany : 71.67
22. S. Korea : 67.95
23. France : 64.7
24. Hungary : 64.64
25. Australia : 63.97
26. Japan : 62.11
27. New Zealand : 61.84
28. Slovakia : 54.36
29. USA : 48.81
30. Brunei : 40.06
31. Canada : 37.72
32. Poland : 36.26
33. Malaysia : 34.88
34. Turkey : 34.75
35. Thailand : 26.04
36. Mexico : 25.45
37. Philippines : 17.77
38. China : 16.09
39. Indonesia : 5.52
40. Vietnam : 2.34

Use Of Smartphone For Business Purposes

There used to be a time when smartphones were primarily used for business purposes. That has quite changed since the likes of iPhone came into the market. A recent study by CrowdScience looked into the number of business users for the popular smartphone OS brands. Here are the results

iPhone users
Personal only : 28%
Business only : 1%
Both : 71%

Android users
Personal only : 32%
Business only : 0%
Both : 68%

Blackberry users
Personal only : 16%
Business only : 7%
Both : 77%

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Posted on Categories Gadgets

Netbooks Sale And Revenue Statistics

In 2009, Netbooks accounted for 11.9% of the portable computer market. This is according to a study published on the Washington post. While the growth in popularity of netbooks is nothing short of staggering, it is a question of whether it will be able to sustain the growth in 2010 and forward considering the launch of tablet devices like the iPad.

Netbooks Units Global Shipment
2008 : 16.4 million
2009 : 33.3 million
2010 : 39.7 million (estimate)

Netbooks Sale Global Revenues
2008 : $6.65 million
2009 : $11.4 million
2010 : $11.4 million (estimate)

Market Share of Netbooks Manufacturers
Acer : 38.3%
Asus : 30.3%
HP : 5.8%
MSI : 5.7%
Dell : 2.8%

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Cell Phone Radiation : Smartphones With Highest Radiation Levels

The Environment Working Group has come up with some statistics on how the new age smartphones have been pushing towards the edge of acceptable levels of cell phone radiation set by FCC. Here are the top ten smartphones and the corresponding Specific absorption rate (measured in watts/kilogram)


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Posted on Categories Gadgets

Worldwide Touch-Screen Smartphone Market Share

Till a couple of years back stylus supported touchscreens were the norm. However, ever since Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone as a device with the best user navigation tool called human finger, capacitive touch-screens have become extremely popular. Here is the latest worldwide market share of touch-screen based smartphones from Canalys Research. For a US based ranking, click here.

Apple : 33.1%
Nokia : 29.5%
HTC : 10.2%
Samsung : 6.4%
Others : 20.9%

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Posted on Categories Gadgets

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