Technology is certainly an amazing thing, but just like everything else that is amazing in this world, it’s not close to being perfect. We’ve all heard of computers being hacked, but these days even the most unlikely of objects are connected to a network that could be hacked. Every single day, you probably use at least a few devices that could potentially have its security breached, including your phone and your car.
With this in mind, here are 15 scary technological hacks that have happened fairly recently. Let us know which one creeped you out the most. Were you or someone you know a victim?
15. Disabling A Vehicle’s Brakes
Driving can be nerve-wracking to some people. There are accidents that can potentially happen by driving too fast, driving while intoxicated or having your vehicle hacked. That’s right; it’s possible for hackers to control your vehicle from a distance. The proof came in 2015 when two security researchers successfully hacked a Jeep Cherokee. They were able to wirelessly take control of the windshield wipers, entertainment system, steering, transmission and brakes. They were even able to track the route of the vehicle and how fast it was going. This was possible because Chrysler vehicles employ UConnect, an internet-connected computer feature that controls the vehicle’s entertainment and navigation systems. This feature had a vulnerability which allowed anyone who knows that car’s IP address to gain access. Scary indeed.
14. The Ashley Madison Reveal
The Ashley Madison hack was very scary for cheaters. Ashley Madison is a website that enables married people to have affairs with other partners interested. In July 2015, all of that fun came to an end for 32 million users when hackers posted their email addresses, names and partial credit card information on the internet. The hackers allegedly felt that they had a moral responsibility to expose Ashley Madison and its users. The results were divorces, resignations and even a few suicides.
Kids’ toys have come a long way in the last decade or two. But with more technological features being added to toys, the more things parents have to worry about. In November 2015, the digital toymaker VTech was hacked, allowing the hacker to access the data of 6.4 million children, including chat logs between children and their parents, photos, email addresses, names and birthdays. This was possible because all communications were over unencrypted connections. Hacks like these are scary and children are vulnerable and unaware of certain dangers. Luckily, the hacker was arrested and said he didn’t plan to do anything with the data, but who really trusts a hacker?
12. Android’s Stagefright
In July 2015, a major vulnerability in the Android operating systems was revealed by a security researcher. It involved a bug in Android’s multimedia playback tool, Stagefright. If a hacker sends an MMS message containing a video that includes a malware code, a built-in app on Androids (Hangouts) automatically processes it to have them ready in the Gallery app. This means that you could be hacked without even opening the text message. The hacker could then have access to all data, including the microphone, camera and pictures. Luckily, companies were quick to send out updates and patches to protect against the bug.
11. Gas Station Pumps
Your car isn’t the only thing that can get hacked. Even when you’re at the gas station, the pumps you use to put gas in your car can get hacked. Gas pumps have an internet-connected system that’s used to track things like fuel levels and temperature. These systems are open to hackers, who could potentially change a tank’s overflow limit to an amount beyond its capacity to cause an explosion.
10. Federal Fingerprints
Arguably, the biggest hack of 2015 was that of the cyber intrusion of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). The hackers got a hold of the data of 21 million Defense Department and U.S. government employees, including those who applied for security clearances. The data stolen included social security numbers, names, addresses and—probably the scariest part—fingerprints of federal employees who use their fingerprints to gain access to secure buildings and computers. To make matters worse, the hackers started the cyber intrusion a year before the OPM caught on.
9. Baby Monitors
People go to all lengths to protect their babies, including using baby monitors. But what if the device that was meant to keep your child safe was hacked? That’s exactly what happened to a couple in New York, in April 2015. They heard the hacker’s voice over the baby monitor saying, “Wake up little boy, daddy’s looking for you.” The hacker was also able to remotely control the camera on the monitor. Creepy, but that’s the problem with new baby monitors that connect to the internet.
8. Credit Card Readers
Your parents may have warned you to cover the credit card machine when entering your PIN. Well, these days, doing that won’t be sufficient in protecting your information. Hackers can now use maliciously crafted cards to load a Trojan into a card reader, which collects PINs onto the reader itself. They can then use a second card to copy the file containing the valuable information. The second card could even delete the Trojan, leaving victims unaware of what happened.
7. House Arrest Trackers
People are placed under house arrest for a reason; usually, they are presented as some sort of danger to society or themselves. What if everyone on house arrest suddenly escaped? That’s definitely possible thanks to hackers. William Turner, a security researcher found vulnerabilities in the tracking anklet that people under house arrest wear. With the right materials, which include a Faraday cage (a container that blocks signals from going out or coming in) and a custom script, amongst other technological tools, a person under house arrest could make police believe they are in their house even though they’re not.
6. Nuclear Facilities
Hacks are so extreme and sophisticated that the wealthiest of countries are using them as weapons to target their enemies. The United States was accused of disrupting the operations of Siemens centrifuges in nuclear power plants in Iran. Supposedly, they did this by using Stuxnet, a computer worm that attacks Microsoft Windows operating systems (which was conveniently used in Iran’s nuclear machinery). This reportedly wiped out nearly 20% of Iran’s nuclear centrifuges.
5. US Department Of Defense
Though not as recent as the other hacks on this list, this one is worth mentioning if only for the fact that it was a 16 year old who did it. In 2000, Jonathon James was sentenced for hacking into NASA and United States Defense Department computers. That’s pretty scary, considering that the United States Defense Department, which is responsible for protecting an entire nation, couldn’t even protect itself from hackers. By now, the security is undoubtedly much higher than it was back in 2000, but one can only imagine what could have happened if it was someone with evil intentions that hacked those computers, and not a teenager looking for a way to pass time.
4. Medical Devices
Medical devices such as pacemakers and insulin pumps are life-saving for many people. But, they can also be deadly if they were to be hacked by those with ill intents, as a security researcher demonstrated in 2011. In his example, he used Medtronic insulin pumps that contain radio transmitters which allow patients and doctors to adjust their functions, a very convenient feature. However, this wireless device can be hacked into if someone was close enough to it and knew the serial number. The scary thing about this is that a hacker could potentially release the entire reservoir of insulin into the patient, which can be fatal.
3. Smart TVs
We all feel pretty safe from the outside world when we’re at home, watching some shows or playing games on our Smart TV. But, a SmartTV is basically like a giant tablet (which is basically like a giant smartphone). So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that like the other “smart” devices, a Smart TV can be hacked, too. The way it works is that a hacker can modify the appearance of apps to trick the user into downloading a phony app infected with malware. Once infected, the TV may become locked, rendering it useless to its user. Or, even worse, it can be used to spy on you (through the built-in camera) and hackers can steal your personal information (such as photos and passwords).
2. Self-Aiming Rifles
TrackingPoint is a company that created the first precision-guided firearm, a long-range rifle. This firearm uses computers to guide the shooter towards making the perfect shot. Great, isn’t it? You’re probably thinking of how many accidents this can prevent. However, the WiFi connection that this rifle comes with makes it vulnerable to hacking. Security researchers demonstrated this in 2015 by changing the rifle’s calculations to make it miss the shooter’s target and also disabled the gun.
When we think of terrorism involving airplanes, we usually think of violent hijackers, weapons and bombs, but as technology advances, terrorists may not even need such tactics to take a plane down. Security researcher Chris Roberts got himself into some serious trouble after revealing that a plane could be hacked and he had done it himself by doing a live test—without authorization. He did so by hooking his laptop up to the Seat Electronic Box, which is under every passenger’s seat. He then accessed the flight’s entertainment system and the Thrust Management Computer, which helps to control the engines. All it took was Robert’s issuing a command to cause the plane to move sideways. Hopefully, this event led to tighter security.