Would you pay a ransom for your cup of joe?

If you’re a gadget-loving person, and you enjoy your coffee, then there is a very good chance that you have a coffee machine. However, I don’t suppose you’ve ever thought it might be a cybersecurity threat.

Davey Winder, a tech journalist, points caffeine addicts in the direction of a new report by security research firm Avasti, which as discovered, “smart coffee machines can not only be hacked but can be hacked with ransomware.”

One of Avasti’s senior researchers, Martin Hron, wrote in a recent blog, “The fresh smell of ransomed coffee”, about how he proved a myth was true when he turned a “coffee maker into a dangerous machine asking for ransom by modifying the maker’s firmware.”

Proving a myth

Hron goes on to say:”I was asked to prove a myth, call it a suspicion, that the threat to IoT devices is not just to access them via a weak router or exposure to the internet, but that an IoT device itself is vulnerable and can be easily owned without owning the network or the router.”

What Hron discovered was that the coffee machine acted as a Wi-Fi access point when switched on. This then established an unencrypted, unsecured connection to a companion app. From that point he was able to explore the machine’s firmware update mechanism, finding that because the updates were unencrypted, no authentication code was required. Hron, behaving as a hacker would, then reverse engineered the firmware stored in the machine’s Android app.

Crypto or coffee?

Perhaps you’ll smile at what Hron tried to do next. He attempted to turn the coffee machine into a cryptocurrency mining machine, something he found would be possible, although also impossibly slow due to the CPU speed. What he did instead, was perhaps more dramatic. Imagine your coffee machine starts making an ear-splitting noise and there is nothing you can do to stop it. Hron created a noise malfunction that could only be stopped by paying a ransom, or pulling the plug on your morning coffee forever.

A noisy attack

He effectively produced a ransomware attack that nobody could ignore. Winder writes, “The trigger for the attack was the command that connects the machine to the network, and the payload some malicious code that “renders the coffee maker unusable and asks for a ransom.”

Hrom also went a bit further. He inserted code that permanently turned on the hotbed and water heater as well as the coffee grinder.

If you have a coffee machine connected to the Internet, you are probably safe, but it’s useful to know that these machines can be attacked. But I do wonder, would you pay the ransom to have your smart coffee machine return to normal breakfast duties, or would you pull the plug and go back to an old skool method of brewing up a cup of joe?

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