Is Ransomware a Concern for IoT developers and Users?

October 3, 2016 - 2 minutes read

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Ransomware has emerged as a major threat in recent years, pitting security experts and hackers in an arms race to protect private data from “freezing” or deletion on both mobile and desktop hardware. Now app developers are concerned that ransomware could make the jump to Internet of Things devices as more household appliances and systems become hooked up to the Internet.

The question is, is IoT ransomware a legitimate threat — or just another technological fear born from a lack of understanding? The answer is hard to predict as the tech is still developing, but security experts seem to agree that it’s at least worth preparing for.

The dangers of hacking for IoT devices has long been an item of concern among IoT app developers, but ransomware is an odd thing to worry about since the thing ransomware attacks — data — is not central to what IoT devices are all about. The concern, rather, is that hackers will hijack industrial systems used in cars, factories, and other high-value applications and grind those applications to a halt until a ransom is paid, similar to data ransom.

In a report to TechCrunch, IoT startup founder Neil Cawse said that “In fact, due to the many practical applications of IoT technology, its ransomware can shut down vehicles, turn off power, or even stop production lines. This potential to cause far more damage means that the potential for hackers can charge much more, ultimately making it an appealing market for them to explore.”

Home applications like security video feeds and health devices also have obvious ransomware potential, as a hacker could access sensitive personal video or information via the devices, turning a “smart” system into a vulnerability. This is partly what’s made IoT development such a slow-growing market for San Francisco iOS app developers compared to other verticals.

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