The world's first ‘online murder' via a hacked internet-connected device could happen by the end of this year, experts have warned.
The European Union's law enforcement agency Europol has cautioned that governments are ill-prepared to combat the looming threat of "online murder" as cyber criminals exploit internet technology to target victims.
In an alarming assessment of the physical danger posed by online crime, Europol said it expected a rise in "injury and possible deaths" caused by computer attacks on critical safety equipment.
The Europol threat assessment published last week cited a report by US security firm IID which predicted that the first murder via ‘hacked internet-connected device' would happen by the end of 2014, ‘The Independent' reported.
The opportunities for tampering with devices come amid predictions that tens of billions of devices will be connected to the internet within the next couple of decades, according to experts.
The Europol report suggests crooks could also use the web to carry out new forms of extortion and blackmail, such as locking people out of their homes or cars before payment of a ransom.
"The IoE [Internet of Everything] represents a whole new attack vector that we believe criminals will already be looking for ways to exploit," according to the Europol threat assessment.
"The IoE is inevitable. We must expect a rapidly growing number of devices to be rendered ‘smart' and thence to become interconnected. Unfortunately, we feel that it is equally inevitable that many of these devices will leave vulnerabilities via which access to networks can be gained by criminals," the report said.
"There's already this huge quasi-underground market where you can buy and sell vulnerabilities that have been discovered," said Rod Rasmussen, the president of IID.
Rasmussen said that while the first reported murder was yet to happen, "death by internet" was already a reality from online extortion and blackmail that has led to suicide.
He said if his firm's prediction of an online murder did not come to pass in 2014, it would likely happen within the next few years.