By Betsy LaBelle
Kenneth Romer, a cyber-security analyst working in the Wellington area, presented a “Demystifying Hacking” workshop to members of the Wellington Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday, Jan. 17 at the Wellington National Golf Club as the first in a three-part series.
A Certified Ethical Hacker, one of the good guys, Romer is a member of the Electronic Crimes Task Force of the United States Secret Service. He assists in investigating cyber-crime, computer crimes, network intrusions, online enticements, hacking cases, website defacements, and identity theft relative to the security of financial and personal information.
Romer has spent more than 20 years working on cyber-security for the federal government, local governments and private companies, developing cyber-security company policies, and he volunteers in the Hacking Lab project to formulate anti-hacking skills.
“We do similar programming that the hackers might do on different companies’ networks with their permission, of course, and then we present them with reports of future possible problems and solutions. We want them to get to that stuff before they have an issue,” Romer explained.
He has spoken at numerous events, including some conducted by the Electronic Crimes Task Force, and he is a technical consultant for the Jupiter Police Department. His presentation in Wellington focused on trends that affect all internet users.
Increasingly, the culture is relying on the internet for our day-to-day lives. Things such as cars and even refrigerators are being connected to the internet. As more and more items get connected to the internet, consumers need to be aware and protective of personal information and how they operate online, he said.
Purchasing plug-in devices connective to the internet, including in-home video monitor systems, in-home devices that regulate air conditioning, refrigerators, even the new, popular speaking devices such as Alexa, Siri and Cortana, require a few steps of protection that many are unaware of. These include any plug-in devices that have a username and password that you change and enter your information.
He called these devices the Internet of Things (IoT).
“IoT devices are designed for ease of use by the manufacturers. If the device was full of security, it would limit its ease of use. We all just want to set up the device and make it work. Most of them are just plug in and play,” Romer said. “Attach it to your network, and it’s ready to go.”
He suggested, however, that people take extra precautions.
“Make sure you are changing the default username and password,” Romer advised. “Lots of times these usernames are ‘admin’ and the password is ‘password 123.’ Make sure your password is strong. It may be something like a device to turn your air conditioner on 20 minutes before you get home.”
The Internet of Things is the network of physical devices, including home appliances and items embedded with electronics, software sensors and network connectivity, which enable these objects to accomplish tasks by an exchange of data. Each thing is uniquely identifiable and able to interact with the existing internet infrastructure through its embedded computing system. These devices help various existing technologies connect between devices.
“Be sure never to buy a used IoT device,” Romer warned. “One person bought a home-security camera system, set it all up, registered it online with his username and password information, and then decided he didn’t want it. He returned it, took it back to Best Buy. A month or so later, he discovers on his computer another person’s bedroom. That device was still set up to his account as a registered user.”
Experts estimate that the Internet of Things will consist of about 30 billion objects by 2020 and reach a global market value of $7.1 trillion as humans increasingly head toward being more and more connected to devices.
Romer shared some other interesting effects of a new, expanded internet on consumers.
“Data collected by the Echo may be used as evidence in a court case; police were able to gather data from a smart water meter, and a smart fridge can be exploited so that an attacker obtains its user’s information,” he warned.
Hackers are everywhere, Romer said.
“They are not going to go away. They are going to be chasing your data and chasing your information. As we learn how to fix things, they learn how to break into things. It’s something that will be with us forever. It’s a good practice to take a little time for security,” he said. “It’s a best practice to protect you, your organization, your data and your information. Take the time to investigate the security and the privacy of the device.”
The three-part series is sponsored by Stuart Hack of Hack Tax & Accounting Services. The next two installments will take place in March and May. For more information, call the Wellington Chamber of Commerce at (561) 792-6525.