The dream of a connected world where PCs and mobile phones can communicate with the digital home and other devices is supposed to make life easier. But it could instead make life far more dangerous if malware developers have their way.
And it's not just the possibility of losing a credit card number. With microchips and software becoming more a part of life, such as in cars, homes and mobile phones, the threats multiply dramatically.
Simple programs available already could be a good start. Mobile phone services in some countries allow people to view what's going on inside their house during the day via a Web cam connected to motion sensors. The Web cam can snap a picture and send it to the user if anything seems awry.
But that same Web cam could be used by a hacker to see if anyone's home. If nobody's in, it may be a good time to break in. Or, a hacker could use the Web cam to take pictures of what's going on in the house, invading privacy. In a more ominous example, what if someone could hack into a user's mobile phone while they're driving and use it to shut down certain automobile systems, like the brakes?
Scenarios like these are becoming increasingly possible as more gadgets, such as mobile phones, become connected to the Internet, said Dhillon Kannabhiran, founder of the Hack in the Box Security Conference being held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, this week.
Part of the problem is that stronger security in personal computers and on servers has made it more difficult to attack such devices.
"These kinds of exploits are getting fewer and far between, so people are looking for new platforms to attack," said Kannabhiran, adding that hackers will take far greater interest in 3G (third-generation) phones because being connected to the Internet all the time makes them more accessible.
The threat of malware attacks on mobile phones has already increased dramatically over the past year as smarter phones that use more software allow Internet surfing and act as personal digital assistants gain popularity.