Remember the "easy money" scene from Terminator 2, when John Connor and his friend hack an ATM with a portable Atari computer? That wasn't fiction. (Well, that one part, anyway. The rest of that movie was absolutely fictional. Sentient killer skeleton robots do not exist, and "Hasta la vista, baby" is not a thing that reasonable human beings say to one another.) Unlike most companies, ATM designers haven't been getting hacked much in the last decade or so, and as such, their security measures are slightly behind the curve.
At last year's Black Hat technical security conference, IOActive Labs' Director of Security Research, Barnaby Jack, wanted to demonstrate just how easy it was to hack a couple of ATMs. He didn't need to open up the machine or even make a withdrawal to accomplish this. He did everything entirely remotely, using only his laptop and a program called Jackpot. When he was done, a jaunty little tune played on his speakers, the word "jackpot" flashed on his screen, and the ATM started spitting out bills all over the place, presumably while Barnaby kicked his heels together and yipped like an old-timey prospector.
Roughly 40 percent of you are now typing "Jackpot full download" into Google.
By 2020, the U.K. wants to have a smart meter in every home to measure gas and electricity consumption. The devices send real-time data directly to the utility companies through a Web connection, thus providing customers with constantly updated information on energy conservation while simultaneously helping to manage national demand more efficiently. The smart meter sounds like a reasonable idea to us working stiffs (well, we're not really working, but we sure are stiff!), but where we see just a little gray box outside that gives us power, a hacker sees a bunch of low-hanging fruit with minimal security, spanning the entire country.
Time to bake some hack pie, baby!
If just one of these boxes was infected with a worm, it could theoretically bring down the entire grid. In the case of the U.K.'s future national "smart grid" plan, that could potentially mean cutting the power off to an entire country.
That's why the really good Modern Warfare players own generators.
Worldwide, there are already 40 million smart meters in use, and several of those networks operate in the U.S. Yet another team from IOActive (these guys are starting to sound like equal parts Robin Hood and Doctor Doom, aren't they?) developed a worm and used it to illustrate the security flaws in these systems. With this worm in place, they did exactly what they warned, and successfully took control of an entire American power grid. Mike Davis, a senior consultant for the firm, issued this ominous statement: "We can switch off hundreds of thousands of homes potentially at the same time." He didn't append the statement with a list of demands or anything, but we're forced to assume that it was followed by some sort of maniacal cackling.
Everything from your car to your blender is getting upgraded with a computer chip these days. Medical implants like pacemakers are no exception. Since they need to be updated somewhat remotely anyway (otherwise all maintenance would involve major surgery), they do have limited outside connectivity, allowing doctors to access your stored medical history, your name and address and your doctor's name and address. Oh, and a skilled hacker can access all of it, too.
That's right: They can hack your goddamn heart.
And as if we need to say it: Obviously they can remotely stop it beating while they're in there.
"Damn you, V4g1n@B00bs87! Daaammnnn yoooouu ..."
In some devices, like an implanted defibrillator, which shocks your heart back into activity if it ever seizes up, hackers can remotely shut off the device and wait for you to die or, if they just ain't got all day, send it into test mode instead -- where the pacemaker repeatedly delivers powerful, fatal shocks to the heart even when it's already beating just fine.
Via Wikimedia Commons
But if you enter the Konami Code ...
Diabetic implants like insulin pumps have proven to be another security risk: When hackers get access to one of these devices, they can mess with the levels being injected into the body, which, again, can have fatal consequences. Jay Radcliffe discovered this hack while he was dicking around with his own diabetic equipment. At first he thought it was "really cool" that he could just ditz around for a few minutes and gain access to computers within his own body. Then he realized that any bored teenager with the right skill set could have total mastery over whether he lives or dies.
"Hey Dad, how big was that insurance policy again?"
He doesn't sleep well these days, we expect.
You know those full body scanners they have at airports now? They're essentially robots that strip-search you with science, staring right through your clothes to see if you're hiding a weapon or an embarrassing tattoo. But more disturbing than the simple fact that these pictures exist is the ease with which these X-ray devices can be hacked. Hackers can gain control of an airport's PC from hundreds of miles away and download these pictures in a flash, probably kick-starting a new half-transparent ghostporn fetish (and the Internet is already at near critical levels of fetish saturation).
Pictured: Critical fetish saturation.
The images these devices capture are supposed to be deleted immediately after security views them, but that's not always the case. Last year, images from an older type of full body scanner (slightly less naked-looking images) were leaked, and future privacy breaches like this are considered a very real threat. So if you're planning to travel by air in the future, maybe hit the gym, do a little waxing and be more selective about your underwear choices, because you never know who could be judging your naked body in the near future. (Us. It's probably going to be us.)
Oh yeah. This is ... hot?
For misconceptions about how awesome hackers are, check out 5 Things Hollywood Thinks Computers Can Do and 8 Scenes That Prove Hollywood Doesn't Get Technology.
And stop by LinkSTORM because the week is half over.
Do you have an idea in mind that would make a great article? Then sign up for our writers workshop! Do you possess expert skills in image creation and manipulation? Mediocre? Even rudimentary? Are you frightened by MS Paint and simply have a funny idea? You can create an infograpic and you could be on the front page of Cracked.com tomorrow!