The Day the Toaster Turned – an IoT Apocalypse

The Day the Toaster Turned – an IoT Apocalypse

In security circles they’re already talking about an ‘IoT Zombie Apocalypse’ and that’s got me thinking about whether a zombie army made up of fridges, cameras, toasters, and thermostats could be as bad as the clambering and crawling, flesh-desiring, cadaverous zombies we’ve grown used to since George Romero redefined the genre back in the 1970s.

So, let’s compare…

Effects of a Zombie Apocalypse

Scenario: A virus from an unknown source has wiped out huge swathes of the world’s population, leaving small groups of survivors to tackle zombie hordes with whatever weapons they can find. There is no government, there are no communications, and the supermarkets are empty.

  • Armies of infected, flesh-eating zombies are roaming the planet looking for flesh
    • Loss of infrastructure (lighting, heating, piped water, communications)
    • Nowhere is safe
    • Food supplies are depleting rapidly
    • One bite will infect you
    • You must become a killer to survive

Effects of an IoT Zombie Apocalypse

Scenario: A virus from an unknown source has wiped out huge swathes of the world’s internet, leaving a small population with limited connectivity to tackle cybercriminals operating behind the mask of the deep and dark web. No one knows who’s in charge, or even whether it’s safe to leave the house.

  • Armies of zombie IoT devices invade and destroy national infrastructure
  • Loss of heating, lighting, piped water, communications, transport
  • No one knows where is safe and where isn’t
  • Food supplies are depleting rapidly
  • You’re being watched, but you don’t know who’s watching
  • You must become a coder to survive

So, there we have it; the IoT zombies may look more like must-have tech but the dark forces they unleash could end civilisation just as effectively – and probably more efficiently – that their distant rotting cousins.

Think this sounds a bit far-fetched? Think again. Back in 2007 Estonia was hit with a cyber attack in which hackers took out the country’s major communication networks, including banks, parliaments, ministries, newspapers and broadcasters, which paralysed the economy.

Of course, we have a major advantage in that we’ve had a whole generation of Zombie films and series to prepare us (meanwhile the likes of Rick and his crew from The Walking Dead appear to have been looking the other way!). What have we learned, then, that could help us prevent the IoT apocalypse?

  1. When news of a ‘new virus we’ve never seen before’ starts to circulate, don’t carry on as normal.

Zombie apocalypses start with viruses that appear to be one-offs but rapidly grow in strength and ferocity, infecting and subsequently killing everything in its path. Zombie film heroes always ignore the news until it’s too late; so let’s ensure the viruses that are already holding the internet to ransom part of the standard news round. We need everyone – not just security professionals – to know what we’re dealing with.


  1. Learn how to protect yourself and your family from getting bitten.

Whilst the virus spreads across the globe, our hero’s family and friends are trying to play catch-up with only minimal information to go on. Half the street has been wiped out before they cotton on that you must avoid getting bitten and that to kill the zombie, you must destroy the brain.

We’ve already had a couple of DDoS attacks that have successfully taken digital infrastructures offline, so let that be warning enough. Forget leaving it to the manufacturers to remind everyone they need to password protect IoT devices; take responsibility for protecting your own, and then start telling other people. Protect your street, your business, and your family.


  1. One of your own may already be infected.

It takes a while for the hero to understand that once bitten, all victims – even if they’re your friends or family – must be killed with a skewer to the brain. They can’t be left to linger, for fear they’ll slow down and endanger the healthy members of the group. It’s brutal, but it’s what survival’s all about in a zombie apocalypse.

Encourage your own social network to protect their phones, laptops and tablets with anti-virus software. Always install the latest software updates; they often include security enhancements. And those viral videos on Facebook? Nuke ‘em if you’re not entirely sure they’re safe.


  1. Don’t stay home alone, form a group – any kind of group

In a zombie apocalypse, lone individuals don’t survive (unless you’re Daryl from The Walking Dead and you’re past the first series).

Start telling people about the dangers now and decide who you’ll join forces with to traverse the ravaged cityscape. Unless we talk about the threats we’re facing, and work together to avoid the doomsday scenario, we may well find ourselves skewering each other’s machines without mercy…

Oh, and it might be an idea if everyone learnt a bit of basic coding.

Stay safe out there!

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