The coffee maker is arguably the most important appliance in any given household. As is the case with pretty much everything else in your home that runs on electricity these days, there now exist various “smart” coffee makers that can connect to the “Internet of Things” (IoT), either functioning automatically in response to certain cues or programmable through your smartphone or smart speaker voice assistant.
The idea of a wifi-connected coffee maker that can dispense caffeine before you even get out of bed probably seems like a godsend. Unfortunately, it turns out even these “smart” coffee makers can also be hacked, at which point they could go rogue and demand you pay up. Yes, really.
That revelation comes from some investigative work by Martin Hron, who works as a research for cybersecurity firm Avast. Essentially, Hron wanted to deduce if it was possible for hackers to not only gain access to a home’s network through an IoT device (essentially using it as a weak point in the network), but to essentially take control of devices like coffeemakers and use them for nefarious purposes. To do that, he did some significant tinkering with a $250 Smarter brand coffee maker which works with remote commands over a home’s wifi network.
Though he goes into the (very) technical details about the process in a company blog post, the short answer is that this kind of coffee maker can definitely be hacked, as this video from Ars Technica’s Dan Goodin indicates.
The crux of the issue is that the coffee maker functions as a wifi access point that relies on an unencrypted connection to its partner smartphone app. Hron exploited that to deploy a ransomware hack, where a target computer or connected device is taken hostage. Once that happens, a hacker can either shut it down, expose information, or wreak havoc until a sum is paid to the hackers. In this case, that means triggering the machine to turn on at random, spewing hot water, and generally becoming a useless nuisance until you either unplug it forever or comply with the hacker’s demands.
While it’s unlikely that hacks would be prowling your neighborhood looking for an IoT-connected coffee maker within wifi range, Hron’s hack shows that it is possible for your coffeemaker to act as a point of vulnerability for your home network. If you can’t stomach the idea that cybersecurity issues might stand between you and your morning cup of coffee, however, you might just want to stick to getting out of bed and making it yourself.
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