Chinese kettles accused of spying, sending data back to remote servers

Graham Cluley

KattleIf media reports from St Petersburg, Russia, are to be believed, a batch of Chinese kettles have been intercepted on their way into the country – which had the ability to do much more than just boil water.

As the BBC explains, the kettles had secretly embedded within them a “little microphone”, and chips which allowed the rogue household goods to connect to computers using unprotected WiFi networks within a 200m radius, and send data back to remote servers.

Other goods which are said to have been bugged include mobile phones and the cameras that Russian drivers seem to love sticking on their car dashboards.

It all seems to me like a very bizarre story – but is it true? I have no idea. For now, I think it would be safest to say that the jury is out.

It’s always possible that something has been “lost in translation”, assumptions made and the truth will only be known if independent technology experts get the chance to examine the offending kettles and determine what they can really do.

But, if it *is* true, you might want to switch to a glass of sparkling water rather than a hot cup of tea in future.

Graham Cluley Graham Cluley is a veteran of the anti-virus industry having worked for a number of security companies since the early 1990s when he wrote the first ever version of Dr Solomon's Anti-Virus Toolkit for Windows. Now an independent security analyst, he regularly makes media appearances and is an international public speaker on the topic of computer security, hackers, and online privacy. Follow him on Twitter at @gcluley, or drop him an email.

2 Replies to “Chinese kettles accused of spying, sending data back to remote servers”

  1. I would find it somewhat believable that such devices have been or are being implanted in regular home electronics (not tea kettles), and, though it probably hasn't occurred yet, I find it inconceivable that this sort of thing will not be occurring in the future, as microcircuitry makes surreptitiousness easier and easier. I find it inconceivable that the Chinese have not already created some kind of "Manchurian Candidate" electronic devices to incorporate into products that they make for their overseas market (i.e., us and others). Our dependence on them for electronics makes about as much sense as if we had purchased all of our military gear from Germany prior to and during WWII. Können Sie Deutsch sprechen?

    As far as something such as a tea kettle, though, I don't find the story credible because of the temperatures and conditions to which the kettle would be exposed.

  2. If there is any truth in this report, then perhaps we
    should also be concerned with items such as the Chinese Wi-Fi
    webcams that are being sold, and these also have microphones in
    them. Could it be possible for the Chinese government or other
    interested party to use the proliferation of these cheap cameras
    with microphones to spy on the UK population? We are even giving
    these devices a guaranteed connection to the Internet! Or is this
    just paranoia? Steve

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Never miss a thing. Sign up for the free GCHQ newsletter from Graham Cluley.
GET UPDATES