Avast at IFA+ Summit

Stefanie Smith 6 Sep 2018

The Avast team discussed the good and bad of AI and the vulnerabilities of smart homes at Berlin’s IFA+ Summit last week.

This past weekend, Avast attended the IFA+ Summit in Berlin, a two-day convention that brings together scientists, artists, developers, researchers, and digital pioneers from IFA, one of the world's leading annual trade shows for consumer electronics and home appliances.

Avast Security Ambassador and Chess Grandmaster Garry Kasparov kicked off the “Intelligence” cluster of the summit with an opening speech titled “Timeless Values in the Digital World — Where AI Decisions Meet Human Responsibility.”

Garry began by explaining his history with machines — more specifically, his matches against chess machines. From the mid-80s through the mid-90s, the machines he played against were considered “dumb,” but this perception took a turn in 1997 when IBM’s Deep Blue defeated him.


Garry stressed that we shouldn’t expect machines to be perfect, but we can expect them to be better than us. Furthermore, he said we should allow machines to make decisions, but that we should be the ones choosing the direction they take, carefully deciding how much power we give them. Regarding the increasing amount of smart devices in the world, Garry pointed out that we are paying for the convenience of smart homes with our privacy. He encouraged the audience to fight for their right to privacy by urging lawmakers to create data protection regulations, rather than leave it up to the technology industry.

After his speech, Garry was joined by Ondrej Vlcek (Avast EVP & CTO), Elisabeth Andre (Professor of Computer Science at the University of Augsburg), Robin D. Hanson (Associate Professor of Economics at George Mason University), and Gesa Schöning (Founder and Managing Director at QualiFiction).

The five speakers took part in a panel titled “Fears of Redundancy — The Relationship Between Biological and Non-Biological Intelligence.” Ondrej discussed the beneficial side of artificial intelligence (AI), such as how Avast employs it to protect users from cyberthreats, but he also commented on the dangerous side of AI. He described how cybercriminals can use AI to carry out attacks, including poisoning AI data sets to alter results. He also explained that AI machines, regardless where applied, include blind spots, preventing humans from fully knowing what the machines do.


Following the panel, Garry and Ondrej were joined by Avast Security Researcher, Vladislav Iliushin, to host a workshop titled “Home Sweet Home? Chronicle of a Smart Home Attack Foretold.” Ondrej opened the workshop by describing the vulnerable state of smart homes. Vladislav then stepped in, playing the role of bad guy as he hacked a fictitious smart home, which contained a security camera, smart light bulbs, smart speakers, and a smart TV. Throughout the process, Garry narrated what was happening for the audience.  


The hack began with Vladislav using Shodan.io, a publicly available IoT search engine, to “randomly” select a home security camera to hack. Vladislav then connected to the security camera remotely, using the camera’s default login credentials/password. Utilizing command injection, Vladislav gained root access to the camera.

Through the camera, Vladislav subsequently accessed other devices, starting with the smart light bulbs, switching them on and off. Next, Vladislav played music on the Sonos speakers, and included a ransom message demanding one or two Bitcoins if the user wanted the music to stop. Following the ransom message, Vlad commanded Sonos to ask Alexa to order a Tesla 3. Finally, Vlad hacked the TV, making it display a persistent ransom message that remained on screen regardless of what the hapless homeowner did.

Ondrej wrapped up the workshop by explaining the challenges of securing IoT devices and introducing how Avast will use AI to detect and block smart home threats through the Avast Smart Life platform.  

In the evening, Garry played simultaneous chess against 8 people. After that, he played another round of simultaneous chess against a new group of 8 people. The Avast team had a wonderful time at the IFA+ Summit and Berlin and look forward to the next conference!



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