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Not Cool: 'Smart' Fridge Takes Part in Spam Cyberattack

This refrigerator shoots spam — but not the kind you're thinking.

At least one Wi-Fi-connected refrigerator may have been part of a recent cyberattack that involved the sending of more than 750,000 malicious spam emails.

The refrigerator was said to have been part of a botnet— a network of "zombie" computers used by online criminals to perform large-scale processes — that numbered over 100,000 connected devices.

MORE: 12 More Things You Didn't Know Could Be Hacked

According to Californian security company Proofpoint, which first discovered the attack, 25 percent of the botnet was comprised of things you wouldn't think of as typical computers, including "smart home" devices such as televisions and multimedia centers — and, yes, at least one refrigerator.

Proofpoint says this is the first proven attack originating from the fast-growing "Internet of Things," the network of smart devices that includes Wi-Fi-enabled TVs, thermostats, lights, security cameras, cars, refrigerators, robot vacuum cleaners, microwaves and more.  

However, it certainly won't be the last. Security researchers have long warned about the risks associated with the Internet of Things. Many of these devices don't have anti-malware software installed on them, don't encrypt their data and ship with the same default administrative passwords. Others are running out-of-date operating systems that may not have been updated recently.

The IDC predicts that the number of Internet-connected things will number more than 200 billion by the year 2020. More smart devices means more cool features — who doesn't want the Android tablet that's also an oven and stovetop range? — but it also means more attack vectors for malicious hackers.

That means your smart home devices could be hacked or infected with malware that would let cybercriminals spy on you, or, in the case of the aforementioned attack, use your devices' processing power to disseminate spam.

"Internet-enabled devices represent an enormous threat because they are easy to penetrate, consumers have little incentive to make them more secure, the rapidly growing number of devices can send malicious content almost undetected, few vendors are taking steps to protect against this threat, and the existing security model simply won't work to solve the problem," said Michael Osterman, of the technology marketing firm Osterman Research, in Proofpoint's press release.

You now have one more kind of infection to worry about when it comes to your refrigerator. Just remember that it's not paranoia if everyone really is out to get you — and in this case, "everyone" includes your home appliances.

Email jscharr@techmedianetwork.com or follow her @JillScharr and Google+.  Follow us @TomsGuide, on Facebook and on Google+.