Over the past few months, you may have heard about rising security concerns as the number of internet connected devices in the home increases. It seems that these days just about every toy, device, or home appliance has internet connectivity or a related app. On one hand, this is great, as it enhances the usability of our devices by perhaps allowing extra features, interactivity, or remote access when you are away from home. On the other hand, each new devices is a potential target for hackers and keeping tabs on all these items in terms of exactly what data is being transferred and when and by who becomes much harder.
What was once a much simpler matter of installing personal antivirus and firewall software on a new laptop or desktop computer, now becomes a minefield. Things aren’t so straightforward when it comes to my daughters Bluetooth enabled Furby Connect that wants to update its catchphrases from the internet.
According to recent research by McAfee, 45% of people are planning to buy the latest gadgets for Christmas this year, putting tech at the top of Brits’ Christmas shopping lists. Furthermore, 22% of people say they plan to buy connected toys this festive period, a 7% increase on last year. Despite this, less than a third of parents (31%) are currently speaking to their kids about what they do online.
McAfee claim that presents could be putting personal information at risk, as less than half of Brits use any form of anti-virus software.
This Year’s Most Hackable Holiday Gifts include (in order of most to least risk):
- Digital Assistants
- Connected Toys
- Connected Appliances
McAfee spoke to some 5-10 year olds’ to gauge how clued up they are on online security threats. Check out the hilarious reactions to their parents probing about their online activity:
So if you’re expecting Father Christmas to deliver any connected devices this year, what can you do to stay safe? I’ve listed 5 tips to help you do just that…
1. Ensure your software and firmware is regularly updated
Make sure all your devices are regularly updated with the latest software. This isn’t just about your PC or laptop, you need to ensure your router, printer, cameras, drones and in fact any internet or network connected device is kept updated with the latest software or firmware. If you’re not sure or have lost a manual, do an internet search for the manufacturer where you can usually find helpful information about how to update your device.
2. Be-careful Clicking Any Links
Devices can be compromised simply by clicking a malicious link. It’s always better to be sceptical about any link you receive, and only when you are sure you know what you are clicking should you proceed. If in doubt, don’t.
3. Never Trust Public Wi-Fi
Always take care when connecting to the internet via a public Wi-Fi hotspot. Even if you are sure that the hotspot you are connecting to isn’t a fake setup by cyber criminals, there are still plenty of risks on legitimate Wi-Fi networks. You never know what users are on the same network or what they’re intent is. Stay safe by avoiding online banking and shopping whilst on public Wi-Fi hotspots to minimise risk. Also, consider using a Virtual Private Network (VPN), like McAfee Safe Connect, which encrypts your network traffic, shielding you from potential hackers.
Before making a purchase its always worth checking if the item or manufacturer has a history of security vulnerabilities. Although toy manufacturers are now beginning to take this issue more seriously, this hasn’t always been the case. A simple internet search will highlight any issues to be aware of.
5. Protect your network
Ensure you have secured your home internet at its source. A solution like McAfee Secure Home Platform will show you what devices are on your network, and protect these devices too.
Will you be getting any gadgets this Christmas? Have you taken any of the precautions listed? Do you have any tips to add? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.
*Disclosure: Collaborative post
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