Who is the SysAdmin for your Fridge ?

OK, I need to explain this question, but bear with me whilst I explain some background. Today we lost access to the internet at Schloss Learnalittle. Figuring out why this was happening, and how to fix it was, to be honest, PITA. If you like a bit of geeky tech stuff, read on, otherwise feel free to skip to the end, where I draw some wild, unjustified conclusions.

What went Wrong (the Long Version)

This morning I couldn’t access the internet (but you remember that from the first paragraph). I got the usual messages from Chrome (couldn’t access the internet) and from Windows 7 telling me that the Internet was not accessible. This was happening on three different computers, so it wasn’t a loose cable. Normally I’d solve this by resetting the router (which didn’t fix it) or resetting my 16 port un-managed hub (which also didn’t fix it). Using my limited networking skills I checked if I could reach the router’s internal interface (192.168.nnn.1). Most times pinging failed, but a couple of times I got some interesting results:

 

myhomepc:~ # traceroute 192.168.nnn.1

traceroute to 192.168.nnn.1 (192.168.nnn.1), 30 hops max, 40 byte packets using UDP

<snip>

1 192.168.nnn.112(H!) 3006.188 ms (H!) 3005.118 ms (H!) 3004.051 ms

That seemed like a long time. Perhaps there was some routing issue in my small home network. The only other devices that could be causing this were a second 8-port un-managed hub and some AV devices (think TV, Blu-Ray player etc.) we have in the living room. After turning off this dumb hub and isolating the not-so-smart devices behind the hub, the internet returned to life. Turning it back on reproduces the problem. I’ve yet to identify the device responsible, but needless to say when I do, I’ll be sending it’s parents a strongly-worded letter.

Conclusions

  • Like a good Agatha Christie novel, you need to suspect everyone/everything when solving network problems.
  • As the “Internet of Things” (hereafter IoT) becomes reality, Home Networks, will become more complex to manage, as more “Smart” devices are connected to the internet.
  • The security risks associated with the IoT is going to be a nightmare. IoT devices are normally fairly cut-down computers (commonly with a Linux kernel) using a basic set of programmes. However, the Heartbleed vulnerability shows how one simple, seemingly robust, process can be vulnerable to hacking.
  • There are already reports of Home Routers and Synology Disk Stations being hacked. This is going to increase as the IoT will introduce a whole new array of weak points into your Home Network.
  • IoT devices are going to need to be patched with firmware/software updates, just like your PC. When you have a Smart Fridge you will need to be it’s SysAdmin, or risk it being hacked or catching a virus. (think script-kiddies virtually emptying your fridge for fun)
  • Clearly this isn’t going to work for most people…

 

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