How to Make Sure That Shiny New Device Does Not Get Hacked this Holiday

Across the country, there’s an awkward pause on Christmas morning no one wants to talk about. It’s that moment when someone opens a gift doesn’t contain some form of shiny, new technology.  Not ready to admit that yet? Okay, Dads, would you prefer a bottle of aftershave or a drone? Moms, would you rather have a pair of slippers that look like hairy bear claws or a fitness tracker? Would Johnny Jr. enjoy a new backpack or a new smartphone? Exactly.

Going gaga over shiny new gadgets is nothing to be ashamed of. Ideally, you should enjoy every moment and megabyte — minus the worry of being hacked. In this third year of McAfee’s Most Hackable Holiday Gifts survey, based on consumer behavior, there are some specific ways to secure your new gifts.

Are You a Ted or a Ned?

This year we’re introducing Ted and Ned, two little elves who have very different ideas of how to protect their digital devices. Going through this fun, short animated clip with your family is a great way to explain digital security to your kids and get them thinking about personal online safety. So, before firing up those new gadgets, take a few minutes to dive into the misadventures of Ted and Ned. Ask your child if he or she will be more like Ted (careful) or a Ned (careless) with their new toys.

Survey: Security Still Not a Priority

Taking the top spot for most-hackable items are our beloved laptops, smartphones, and tablets. Also, drones, digital assistants, connected toys, and digital appliances took top spots. Much like last year, the  2017 survey revealed that while consumers realize the importance of protecting their online identity and internet-connected devices, they still are unsure if they are taking the right security measures or aren’t too concerned with making device security a priority. Of the 1,206 adults surveyed this year, 20% of consumers are not worried about internet security and would still buy a must-have connected device if they knew it was susceptible to security breaches. For 40% of those surveyed, security is not a top priority when purchasing but is considered after purchase.

And concerns about digital toys? Most consumers agree that security is a necessity for laptops, tablets, and smartphones (69%). But, only 22 percent believe connected toys require protection. Also, 29 percent think drones should be protected, and 56 percent believe that digital assistants need to be secured.

The Risks Are Real

Having a toy or a washing machine hacked sounds farfetched but hackers view our digital devices as unlocked doors into homes. They target built-in microphones, cameras, and location-based services to access your family’s personal information in order to conduct financial and physical crimes. With any phone or tablet, thieves can woo you into clicking or downloading malicious links and apps. With drones, consumers need to be aware of risks associated with drone jacking and fake Wi-Fi signals from rogue drones.

In short, as consumers, we still have a security gap to close. Let’s get started! Here are a few tips to give your family clarity on digital security.

  • Keep it simple: Securing a new gift often takes five minutes much like registering for a product warranty. So make going into a product’s privacy settings a holiday routine and teach your kids to do the same. Keep the process simple device security is more likely to become a habit in your family.
  • Research before you purchase: Not all manufacturers take security seriously, especially when it comes to connected toys, so it’s important to research if there have been any reported security vulnerabilities before purchasing toys.
  • Think before you click: One of the easiest ways for cybercriminals to compromise your device is using a malicious link. Don’t trust a link or other solicitation that you are not expecting.
  • Update, update, update: Whether it’s your PC, smartphone, digital assistant or even your drone, keep the software up to date. Manufacturers plug security holes with device updates, so it’s crucial to install the latest versions as soon as possible. When applicable, use up-to-date security software.
  • Beware of shady public Wi-Fi hotspots: Cybercriminals often deploy fake Wi-Fi hotspots that appear to be legitimate but give them visibility into your browsing habits. If you have to use public Wi-Fi refrain from online shopping or banking. Take extra precautions when linking your life to the world-wide web. If you need to shop or bank on public Wi-Fi, use a Virtual Private Network (VPN).
  • Lock down your home network: Secure all of your connected devices and your home internet at its source — the network. Avoid routers that come with your ISP (Internet Security Provider) since they are often less secure. And, be sure to change the default password and secure your primary network and guest network with strong passwords.


Toni Birdsong is a Family Safety Evangelist to McAfee. You can find her on Twitter @McAfee_Family. (Disclosures).

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