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Communications watchdog: Criminals behind home automation system cyber attack

The Finnish Communications Regulatory Authority Ficora says that a cyber attack that disrupted home automation systems in Lappeenranta, southeast Finland, was the work of criminals. The incident caused services such as heating to restart when web traffic overloaded the capacity of computers controlling the systems.

Image: AOP

The Finnish communications regulator Ficora said it suspects criminal entities of coordinating a web attack that disrupted home automation systems in the southeastern city of Lappeenranta. However the agency said that the real target of the attack may not have been in Finland.

"According to our information, the systems in question are not the intended targets in this case, but they were compromised in a cyber attack that focused on European entities. In other words, it seems that there was some criminal group behind it," said Jarkko Saarimäki, head of Ficora’s cyber security centre.

Officials said that the event bore the hallmark of a denial of service (DoS) strike, which floods a service which so much web traffic that it is unable to provide services normally.

"The attack was carried out so that it directed attack traffic through different vulnerable systems and in this case those systems were ones used for managing home automation systems. Because they were compromised the systems failed, causing heat supply disruptions," Saarimäki explained.

The cyber security expert said that computers managing automated systems should have strong security, as such attacks could lead to disagreeable consequences. For example, he noted that a disrupted heating supply during sub-zero weather could cause plumbing problems as pipes freeze and crack.

Saarimäki described the incident as a sombre reminder.

"It is serious. Finnish society is already highly dependent on these electronic systems," he concluded.

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