With the development of smart phones, homes, cars and even cities, technology is gradually changing the way we live and think, making life easier, safer and quicker. The so-called “Internet of Everything” (IoE)—a new era of interconnectedness in which everything from garage doors to hospital health systems will be linked and controlled through computer networks—holds great promise for civilisation. But it also leaves us open to lurking dangers. A recent media report says European police agency Europol has warned that the first online murder can happen by the end of this year. The crime will be perpetrated by hacking an internet-connected device.
So far there have been no proven cases of murder by tampering with protective computer devices. The idea was used in US thriller series Homeland when Cheney’s fictional counterpart was murdered by a similar method. However, hackers have highlighted numerous flaws in computer security systems. In a series of high-profile stunts, Barnaby Jack hacked into cash machines to make them spew money, and exploited a flaw in an insulin pump. He died last year just before he was about to demonstrate how pacemakers could be hacked.
The IoE represents a whole new attack vector and Europol’s assessment fears criminals will be looking for ways to exploit it. This could result in the advent of new forms of extortion and blackmail through connected devices, including locking people out of their smart cars and homes before payment of ransom. What should be worrying is the assessment by Europol that at present governments are ill-prepared to combat the looming threat of “online murder” as cyber criminals exploit internet technology to target victims. The situation, thus, calls for a vigorous international effort to ensure that new forensic techniques “adapt and grow” to address the dangers posed by the increasingly innovative breed of cyber criminals who are always two steps ahead of law enforcement agencies.