ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Nearly every household has multiple devices that connect to the world wide web, and it’s not always just a computer. One of the few labs conducting cyber security threats for consumer products is located at the College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity on the University at Albany’s research and development complex.
Inside the Hack IOT lab, as it’s known, robots roam the halls. “This is very essential. We are moving into the era where everything is connected,” said Assistant Professor Benjamin Yankson, who runs the lab.
Even the toys in the lab connect to the internet. “Most of the niche is looking at vulnerable sector technology, devices used by children and seniors.”
It’s estimated that by the year 2025, households will have 41.6 billion devices connected to the internet. Devices like home security cameras, smart speakers and robots like the one that they use at the lab called Zenbo. Students work with the bots to find out what sort of information it’s collecting when someone asks ‘What’s the weather like?’
“One of the products we’ve worked on, it’s sitting around here. I cannot fully disclose. Usually, we’ll communicate with that particular company. We need to give them the opportunity to fix the problem,” explained Yankson.
It’s not major companies they work with. Most recently, a group of graduate students acted as cyber security consultants for a local Jewish temple. David Komar, a graduate student studying cyber security, explained, “We looked at their computers; we looked at the data they are storing and their network. Part of it was financial data that wasn’t protected.”
Yankson added, “They were so happy. They came back to us and said can you help us in addressing this vulnerability.”
It’s the type of work cyber security student Robert Elfie is hoping will help people see the dangers behind everyday devices. “We downloaded a portal that looked like a Google login page,” he explained.
The student-turned-ethical-hacker setup a fake Wi-Fi network ready for anyone to connect to with their device. “Someone could be sitting there with this device and you don’t even know. It could be in their backpack. But it’s actually not the legitimate network, and you will have no way of knowing,” Elfie explained.
His project in the lab is all an in effort to show people what not to do when connecting a device to the internet.