Murder weapon of the future: the smartphone


As we all know, smartphones are terrific tools—but in the wrong hands they can become weapons capable of mass murder, Vanity Fair reports. Terrorists already use them to trigger bombs, but tech-security experts are finding that phones can also shut off pacemakers, make cars crash, hijack houses, exhaust batteries in hospital equipment, and take over electrical systems. “If I’m a bad guy, I’ll wait till there’s a major snowstorm or heat wave,” says Stuart McClure, chief technical officer at McAfee. “Then kill the heat or A/C” so that “the elderly die very easily.”
All you need to undermine an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD), apparently, is a custom-built transmitter that makes a smartphone function like a wireless device used by doctors. Such a phone could signal an ICD to spit out 830 volts—a lethal zap. Equally vulnerable are the tire-pressure monitoring systems in cars, which could be wirelessly told to inform the car’s computer to lock the tires at 70 miles per hour. The list goes on: house “smart meters,” appliances, external defibrillators—all are at risk. And our technological society will only invent more. “Only when these embedded computers start to kill a few people—one death won’t do it—will we take it seriously,” says McClure.