Security researchers have warned that millions of hacked toothbrushes could be used in a massive cyber attack.
Internet-connected toothbrushes could be linked together in something known as a botnet, which would allow them to perform a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack that overloads websites and servers with huge amounts of web traffic.
Major websites could be knocked offline as a result of the attack, according to Swiss newspaper Aargauer Zeitung, who first reported the threat, resulting in millions of dollars of lost revenue.
The issue was initially reported as an actual incident, but Fortinet has since clarified to The Independent that it was a hypothetical scenario.
“The topic of toothbrushes being used for DDoS attacks was presented during an interview as an illustration of a given type of attack, and it is not based on research from Fortinet or FortiGuard Labs,” a spokesperson said.
“It appears that due to translations the narrative on this topic has been stretched to the point where hypothetical and actual scenarios are blurred.”
Fortinet warned of the dangers of smart devices, which can include web cams, baby monitors, doorbells and domestic appliances.
“Every device that is connected to the Internet is a potential target – or can be misused for an attack,” said Stefan Züger, head of system technology at Fortinet Switzerland. Mr Züger advised owners of smart technologies to take measures to protect themselves.
“Otherwise, sooner or later you will become a victim – or your own device will be misused for attacks,” he said.
The growing trend of internet-connected and AI-enabled devices was on display at the CES tech conference in Las Vegas last month, with everything from pillows to mirrors now embedded with the technology.
The continued rise in popularity of such devices has coincided with fresh security concerns about the risks they may pose if protections are not put in place.
A recent report from network performance firm Netscout noted an “unprecedented growth” in malicious botnets, with activity doubling in January.
“These consistently elevated levels indicate a new weaponization of the cloud against the global internet... [and] confirms that a dangerous new wave of cybercrime is underway,” the report stated.
“This battle is just beginning and the adversary is performing reconnaissance to uncover areas to exploit.”
This article was updated on 8 February 2024. It initially inaccurately reported that an attack had actually happened, but has been updated to reflect the fact that this was a hypothetical warning.