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Your Credit Card Number Was Hacked by a Refrigerator

In the following video, Motley Fool analyst Eric Bleeker talks with Cisco's (NASDAQ: CSCO  ) Chris White, who is a general manager of Internet of Things sales at the company. 

While the Internet of Things has potential to be a technology shift of unparalleled size, one of the major concerns is around security. If all devices are connected via an Internet connection, home appliances or even HVAC systems could be remotely controlled. In January of this year, hackers used a refrigerator as part of a large-scale cyberattack, which made headlines across the world. If security concerns lead to fewer connected factories, hospitals, and homes, it'd blunt Cisco's revenue growth in coming years. 

Chris describes the challenges around security in a world where tens of new billions of devices will be connected in the coming decade.  

A transcript follows the video. 

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Eric Bleeker: You just talked about this. Maybe to get a little bit more granular on it -- security is always interesting to me. There was a recent attack where someone had taken over, I think it was like 700,000 devices, and as part of a malevolent attack they used a refrigerator, and it made headlines everywhere.

But you look at it -- that's a very connected consumer angle. A lot of these industries you're going to have previous systems that weren't even connected to the Internet to begin with. I think a lot of people don't think about that kind of angle on it, especially with industrial Internet.

Could you talk about some of the security opportunity? How big do you think this could be in the next five years, when you're entering these whole new verticals?

Chris White: You know what, Eric? I think the most sobering one is the Target attack. Target's point-of-sale credit card system got breached because of an HVAC connection -- to your exact point. An air conditioning unit with an Internet connection that IT probably never even knew about, was where some creative hacker managed to penetrate Target's infrastructure.

I think the good news is we're talking about it. I think the reality check is, we haven't quantified it, so a lot of the security IT industry is very busy securing the IT world, and I don't think they've really even woken up to how massive the opportunity is to secure the OT side of the world.

I think it's going to be a booming market here in the very medium to short-term, because we're already seeing the IP demand in the OT side of the world being 15 times that of the IT world.

As an example, a very large manufacturing company, North American-based, has 15 major factory plants around the world. They have between 50 and 60 thousand unmanaged, unsecure ports of connectivity in every single one of those plants. You think about the security exposure and security opportunity, let alone the manufacturing benefits they can do to get into that market and help transform that infrastructure.

I think we're scratching the surface on this security conversation at the moment.

Bleeker: That's helpful. Thanks.

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  • Report this Comment On June 07, 2014, at 11:03 AM, madanthonyinMD wrote:

    Target was not breached "by a refrigerator" or by a "connection to an HVAC unit". Yes, it was an HVAC contractor that caused the breach, but they were connecting to Target's network to access billing, project management, and other business systems, not to access a network-connected appliance.

    Sure, it's important to secure all internet-connected devices, but for the near future Windows machines are still going to be the most common and easiest thing to breach to attack a network.

    Info on the specifics of the Target breach:

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Eric Bleeker

Eric started at The Motley Fool in 2008 working in the Tech & Telecom sector. Today, he's the General Manager of You can follow him on Twitter to stay up to date with his tech industry analysis.

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