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Dangerous Hacking Threat Prompts Concerns Over "Cyber Murders"

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    NEWSLETTERS

    (Published Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2014)

    It’s only a matter of time before someone commits the world’s first cyber murder and anyone that uses smart devices could be a target, NBC5 Investigates has found.

    “I don’t think most people realize how much technology is being embedded in their everyday lives and in their homes, even in their bodies,” said Chicago-based security researcher and ethical hacker Nicholas Percoco of Rapid 7.

    All smart devices, whether it’s a phone or fitness band, are made of millions of lines of computer code. And it does not take much for a malicious hacker to manipulate a few lines of that code and get inside your device.

    “It’s a single software flaw or single vulnerability that’s identified in that technology that could cause, you know the worst case, it could cause death,” said Percoco.

    A recent report released by Europol, the European Union’s chief criminal intelligence agency, warns of that very thing.

    “It’s possible if you are a cybercriminal to sit in a Western European country and target somebody in the United States,” said Wil van Gemert, Deputy Director of Europol.

    These cyber-attacks could target your car or smart home, even home appliances, gadgets, routers and TVs.

    The first cyber-attack of this type happened this year when cyber criminals took control of home appliances and used them to send out nearly a million spam emails.

    “I talk about the internet of things,” said Dawn Myerriecks, the deputy director of the CIA’s technology division, addressing the issue at a talk last month called ‘The Future of Warfare’ at The Aspen Institute. “The fact that smart refrigerators have been used in distributed denial of services attacks. The fact that fluorescent smart LEDs are communicating that they need to be replaced but also being hijacked for other things.”

    And now cyber criminals have another advantage. A hidden world on the internet called the Deep Web, where they can access an underground, untraceable society. Here, they can buy and sell drugs, guns, counterfeit passports, stolen credit cards and even hire a hit man.

    “There have been some cases where attempts have been made,” said Gemert.

    Federal court records show the FBI arrested alleged Silk Road ringleader Ross Ulbricht last year for hiring a hit man and multiple drug charges. Silk Road’s online market in the Deep Web allowed users to anonymously buy drugs and guns. The online marketplace generated roughly $1.2 billion, according to court records. Ulbricht pled not guilty to all charges – including hiring a hit man.

    “I think most people probably hear about these things or they see it in TV shows - someone getting assassinated on a TV show because of Bluetooth in a defibrillator or something,” said Percoco. “But I don’t think people realize that these types of things are real.”

    Law enforcement say they are at a disadvantage in stopping these crimes, because many of these cyber-crimes cross jurisdictional boundaries and so many of these cyber-criminals operate out of other countries, which makes it difficult to track them.