Smart devices may pose threat

Researchers presented findings at Cybersecurity Symposium, say it opened conversation



Adam Hahn, WSU assistant professor in the School of Electrical Engineering & Computer Science, says he thinks little was done to change smart device security since an attack in 2016.

SOLEN AREF, Evergreen reporter

A professor and a graduate student in the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science recently published an article analyzing the cybersecurity threat smart devices may pose.      

Adam Hahn, WSU assistant professor in the School of Electrical Engineering & Computer Science, worked with WSU graduate student David Jonathan Sebastian-Cardenas to publish an article analyzing how threats to individual smart devices, such as cell phones, doorbells, webcams and more could compromise the national electrical power grid.

“The electrical grid is the one that delivers electric power to the entire nation, it’s how the industry runs, and human beings rely on that,” Sebastian-Cardenas said. 

In 2016, a cyberattack that was the largest of its kind, took down many websites including Twitter, Netflix, Reddit, CNN and more. The cyberattack targeted the servers of Dyn, a company that manages many internet infrastructure sites, according to an article from The Guardian. 

Hahn said he doesn’t believe much has been done to change the security of smart devices since the 2016 cyberattack, which can lead to negative consequences. 

“There’s been a change on the mindset of companies over the years. It’s opened their eyes and let them see that the industry needs to do something,” Sebastian-Cardenas said.

Hahn believes it’s the responsibility of smart device companies to do their best in providing safe protection to smart device consumers. 

“The consumers don’t know enough, and you can’t expect every consumer to be an expert on the topic,” Hahn said. 

Hahn also said the government should work with smart device companies to hold them accountable to ensuring consumer safety. 

“Unless they’re [smart device companies] held responsible for that, they won’t,” Hahn said.

In their published article, it states that the most visible layer attackers try to access are third party devices, such as Google Voice.

Hahn said companies of such devices want to make them easy to use by consumers. However, “that usually comes with some trade-offs”, and those trade-offs usually include how safe the device is.

Hahn and Sebastian-Cardenas presented their research at the 2019 Northwest Cybersecurity Symposium to an audience that was very knowledgeable about cybersecurity, Sebastian-Cardenas said. 

The research for the article took about three and a half years, Sebastian-Cardenas said.

Hahn said he believes the presentation at the Cybersecurity Symposium was received well, and has allowed for the topic of cybersecurity to get more attention.