Guard Your Gadgets

(WSVN) - We all know how dangerous hackers can be, but did you know your smartphones and watches could put you at risk? Cyber engineers are now coming up with way to make those devices safer. 7’s Alex de Armas shows us how they are helping “Guard Your Gadgets.”

We all know hackers break into computers, but did you know they can also hit devices you probably have with you right now?

Dr. Selcuk Uluagac, Florida International University cyber researcher: “Devices that have sensors on them. Devices that have cameras, GPS, all these light sensors.”

At Florida International University, researchers are hacking in to smart devices like phones, watches, even fitness trackers, to find new ways to keep the bad guys out.

Dr. Selcuk Uluagac
Dr. Selcuk Uluagac

Dr. Selcuk Uluagac: “We are looking at the potential threats, and we are developing solutions and defense mechanisms.”

For smart watches and phones, the trouble starts when you download an app that’s infected with malware.

Dr. Selcuk Uluagac: “It may seem like a benign app, but it may also have other covert purposes.”

Covert purposes, like stealing your information, and it can happen in a flash.

The team shows how light from this cellphone attacks the smart watch sensors, triggering the malware hidden inside the watch. In just moments, this hacker is in.

Aaron Paz
Aaron Paz

Aaron Paz, FIU student researcher: “You could extract contact information, banking or internal app information. We’re talking logins to Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat. Really, anything that’s on the device is fair game.”

Smart watches can also be altered to hack in. It looks innocent, but sensors inside this watch are collecting data from this computer’s keystrokes.

Dr. Selcuk Uluagac: “You could maybe send it to a server, or you could just, you know, take it, go back home and analyze it at home.”

Think about it. Just by flashing a light or recording key strokes, hackers can empty your bank accounts, get your social security information or your home address.

Dr. Selcuk Uluagac: “It’s really straightforward to hack into these devices.”

Fitness trackers can give up private, sensitive health information, and home devices like smart locks and smart thermostats are also vulnerable.

Dr. Selcuk Uluagac: “Anything is possible once an attacker finds a way to get into the system.”

But that’s what the team is working to prevent. Their research is being funded by a half-million dollar grant from the National Science Foundation.

As they develop new defenses against cyber attacks, they publish their findings for all to see.

Dr. Selcuk Uluagac: “So the device manufacturer can enhance their security software or apps.”

Aaron Paz: “It’s incredible, it’s amazing. We’re working to make the world a better place.”

To avoid malware, the team says to download apps only from trusted sources and to be very careful about granting permission for any app to have access to your device.

Copyright 2016 Sunbeam Television Corp. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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