Securing Those ‘Hackable Holiday Gifts’

“This Christmas I want a drone from Santa,” declared my 10-year old nephew, giving me a meaningful look.

His sister chipped in, “And I want a smart watch.”

My sister meanwhile picked up her head from her Kindle and groaned, “I want an automated home this Christmas!”

Hmmm, OK! I get it technology has influenced our lives beyond the usual use of smartphones and PCs.

And this rising interest in internet-enabled gadgets is not limited to my family. You must have come across McAfee’s second annual McAfee Most Hackable Holiday Gifts list which was recently featured in the news. It highlights how the demand for connected devices continues to be on the rise in on holiday wish lists this year too – with 80 percent of consumers likely to do their holiday shopping online!

It’s not surprising that laptops and smartphones are the top choice for gifts, what is new and increasing is the demand for connected devices like fitness trackers, smart watches, and drones. What concerns me is that 85 percent of the respondents said they start using the devices straightaway, even though most are aware of the security risks associated with devices that connect to the internet!  Further, many of those who adopted security measures are not sure if they were going about it the right way.

Technology is progressing so rapidly that it is quite tough to keep pace with it. It’s only now that people have begun to understand the security risks connected to phones and laptops, and have started using security tools to protect their devices. That even fitness trackers, CCTV cameras, and media streaming devices might have vulnerabilities that expose them to cyberattacks, is something they are yet to come to terms with. The vulnerable point of these devices for cyber criminals is that they are user-friendly and often do not adhere to strict security standards.

Fresh in our minds is the recent IoT-specific attack, wherein thousands of IoT devices were affected.

Here are the Top 5 Most Hackable Holiday Gifts in 2016:

  1. Laptops and PCs: Keep in mind that cyberattacks are not limited to Windows-based devices.
  2. Smartphones and Tablets – These devices too are the targets of malware and hacking attacks, which may lead to loss of personal and financial information.
  3. Media Players and Streaming Sticks – If these are not secured and kept updated, they too can be exploited by cyber attackers.
  4. Smart Home Automation Devices and Apps – These can be controlled by smartphones and so a compromised smartphone can become a potential threat to the device, and hence, the user.
  5. Drones – Drone sales are expected to grow to more than $20 billion by 2022 as they are right now the latest craze among both the young and the old. Unfortunately, unsecured devices could allow hackers to disrupt the GPS signal, or even hijack them.

Sharing 5 Simple Tips to Keep You and Your Gadgets Safe This Holiday Season:

  1. Install and run security software in ALL Internet-enabled devices: This is the FIRST thing you do to keep your device and data safe. I highly recommend that you use cross device and comprehensive security software like McAfee LiveSafe™.
  2. Only use secure Wi-Fi: We all know that hitching on to public, unsecured Wi-Fi may expose us to security threats. Same goes for your toys, gadgets and home security systems
  3. Go for difficult-to-guess passwords or PIN: If possible, enable multi-factor authentication (MFA) to enhance security. If you have trouble remembering all your passwords, use a password manager.
  4. Check before you click. Be suspicious of links from people you do not know and always use internet security software to stay protected. Hover over the link to find a full URL of the link’s destination in the lower corner of your browser
  5. Review products prior to purchase: Please do read all product security specifications, including whether security updates will occur automatically or be done manually. Change default password immediately.

This holiday season, make sure your gifts of love don’t compromise your loved ones’ security. Buy products from reputable brands/ reputable e-tailers, secure them immediately with strong passwords, install comprehensive security software, and keep the software up-to-date. Do ensure that you are applying patches as they are released from the manufacturer right away to ensure that the device is protected from the latest known threats. And only then your devices will be good to go.

Happy Shopping!


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