The IBTimes recently ran a story informing readers that “Hackers could be targeting toasters to mine bitcoins, expert warns.”
Speaking to the annual Slush startup conference in Helsinki, Finland, F-Secure Chief Research Officer Mikko Hypponen stated, factually, that:
“Cryptocurrencies are interesting as they open up new opportunities, like mining. Attackers don’t target the user but the computer itself. Internet of Things devices can be hacked to mine cryptocurrencies and make money.”
Last year, Hypponen said similar things in his speech, which generated similar headlines. Why then, a year later, has a mainstream media site decided to run with a misleading title? Lack of knowledge of Bitcoin mining, obviously.
Frankly, I’d be more worried about hackers infecting my toaster or fridge, the one that I’m supposed to be able to voice-activate, with malware that can infect my desktop via high-frequency transmissions , regardless of air-gap. That’s right, you’re more likely to have a virus screeched from your toaster to your phone than you’re to find a Bitcoin mining botnet hiding in your smart home. The reason why is simple economics. While mining is a unique way to use an internet enabled device to generate some form of money, getting access to financial information (be it bank login information or bitcoin private keys) through more classic snooping techniques is still a more lucrative prospect.
The processing unit on an Internet of Things enabled toaster would likely resemble that of a Raspberry pi. Given the limited functionality required of a smart toaster, it’s safe to say that no toaster in the foreseeable future will be hashing SHA256 at more than 125khash/s (Bitcoin mining ASICs run at speeds which are many orders of magnitude higher). I’ll gladly retract my prediction, while rushing to the store for some whole wheat, if we start seeing quadcore toasters. Hackers would more likely set the device to mine an altcoin that is still rationally CPU mine-able. The difference between Bitcoin and Dogecoin, and between Dogecoin and another altcoin that is still only being CPU mined, is the hashing algorithm used to secure the blockchain. In fact, that’s what Hypponen was saying anyways: That for hackers that do not care about a hacked device’s energy usage, mining cryptocurrencies (specifically not Bitcoin) is a potentially profitable attack vector.
Bitcoin opens lots of doors, just not one for hackers to my toaster. Hypponen reflected on the coming changes to our respective ways of life that will be brought by the internet:
“The internet really is changing everything but I do wonder where it’s going. We’ve lived through a great revolution. It’s brought us so much good – like connectivity, new business and entertainment opportunities – but sometimes it does feel like we’ve built a monster.”
What do you think about IB Times’ headline? Comment below!
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