Is nowhere safe? Warning hackers may infiltrate toilets of tomorrow

Cyber security experts at Gisec expose the latest flaws and weak-spots facing businesses in the UAE

ABU DHABI - UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - 05FEB2014 - This automated toilet is out of order since its launch some five years back near city bus terminal on muroor road in Abu Dhabi. Ravindranath K / The National (to go with Anwar story for National)
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The future is revolutionary – and a lot closer than many of us think.

The Gisec security exhibition in Dubai on Monday painted a vivid picture of how the next decade may take shape, as 5G technology and the world of internet begin to dominate society.

Everything from our watches to our toilets will be connectable devices, technologists speaking at the forum said.

A smart toilet by Ideaing was one of the more unusual devices that could go mainstream.

At $25,000 (Dh92,000), it does not come cheap, but it can monitor waste to check fibre content, blood sugars and vital signs that can be sent to a virtual doctor and nutritionist.

The hi-tech throne has a smart seat to display other readings such as heart rate and body weight to send to a mobile app. There is even a live video feed from the bottom of the bowl.

It is just one example of how technology could become more integrated in our lives, but some have concerns about society's readiness to protect these devices from hackers.

"Like any new adoption of technology, we usually rush to implement it and that can leave vulnerabilities to hackers," said Rick McElroy of cyber security company Carbon Black.

“There are not enough qualified people to work on protecting the security of the Internet of Things. Consumers are very rarely prepared for the emergence of new technology, but they are becoming more aware of the threats online,” he said.

epa07478383 A table tennis player plays against a robot at the booth of the company 'Omron' during the Hannover Industry Fair (Hannover Messe) in Hanover, northern Germany, 01 April 2019. From 01 April to 05 April, 6,500 exhibitors from 75 countries show their products during one of the World's leading fairs for industrial goods. The main focus of the Hannover Messe 2019 is on Artificial Intelligence and the new mobile standard 5G.  EPA/JENS SCHLUETER
Artificial intelligence will soon become a part of every day life. EPA

Most aspects of life are in line for monumental changes because of rapid technological advances, with driverless cars expected by 2030 and high-speed hyperloop transport likely before then.

Smartphones could be obsolete by 2025, as new communication devices take over.

Virtual reality is likely to replace learning from books by 2030, with an end of fossil fuels likely by 2050. Singularity – where human and machine become one – was also predicted to become a reality within 30 years.

Automation, artificial intelligence and machine learning have been predicted to make millions of manual labour jobs obsolete.

But that will create opportunities in other areas, said technologists at the three-day conference, part of Future Technology Week.

"Education on cyber security is happening in schools, and that is very important," Mr McElroy said.

“Learning in this area is hugely important as there are some great career opportunities.

“It is more than just learning about cyber bullying or how to stay safe online, children can learn about this industry in greater detail to develop a career.

“In the US alone, it has been predicted there will be 300,000 to a million new jobs created from online security demands.

“In Los Angeles, companies are currently waiting up to 18 months to fill cyber security positions in companies.”

UAE Government cyber security contractors Dark Matter said it had recently identified vulnerability in Cisco IP phones, commonly used for conference calls in business.

Hackers and malicious cyber actors could have exploited the flaw to compromise and infiltrate computer networks. It is one example of the rising threat posed to technology.

Research identified the risk, and created a security patch to fix the flaw.

“Through these security flaws, hackers could have gained control of device functionality such as microphone, web camera and voice mail,” said Rocco Calvi, Director of Software Labs at xen1thLabs, part of the DarkMatter Group.

DarkMatter Group’s latest Cyber Security Report identified around 276,000 vulnerabilities between July and September 2018, across nearly 800,000 Internet-facing UAE affiliated websites, hosts and domains. More than a third of those were rated ‘high’ or ‘critical’.

The top three security weaknesses included outdated software, in 93 per cent of assessments, unsupported software, in 83 per cent, and weak passwords, in 77 per cent.

Speaking at the conference, security experts said another concern is the dark web, a sub-layer of illegal websites generating huge financial transactions of about $1 trillion a year. It is growing at an alarming rate.

“At the bottom of the scale, the dark web is a marketplace for counterfeit goods, sensitive information and personal accounts,” said Mark Pearce, chief marketing officer at Cyjax, a company working with law enforcement authorities and governments around the world to monitor illegal transactions.

“At the higher end, it is also the place where weapons and drugs are traded on a large scale, with Bitcoin the currency of choice.

“We are trying to fill in some of the blanks, where these items are purchased from and where they are shipped.

“The framework for this area is growing all the time.”