This holiday season, there won’t be a shortage of internet connected devices like Drone planes, Smartwatches, Smart TVs, cameras, microwave ovens, refrigerators, ACs and central heating thermostats, even medical devices like pacemakers on the market. While it might seem like a great idea to get Smart Gifts for Christmas for your friends and relatives, don’t hurry off just yet. As more aspects of our daily lives become network based, we are opening ourselves to increased hacker attacks.
While the hackers might not get any monetary benefit right away, they can secure a passage into your home wireless network via any of the devices. Then it won’t be too difficult to install spyware, malware and viruses to either disrupt and damage your valuables or extract sensitive information like saved passwords and credit card or banking data.
Even if there is provision for setting up strong passwords for online accounts, smart devices and WiFi networks, we often sacrifice security to make daily activities easier in the short run. This can prove very expensive as more essential aspects of our lives become wirelessly connected. Just imagine your thermostat is remotely set to an extremely high temperature and you are out. At the very least the electric bill will take all the fun out of the holidays!
In the excitement of getting a new drone plane, you might forget to set the password for it or change it from the default value. This simple omission can give easy access to thousands of recreational and malicious hackers all over the internet. Especially in the case of confidential work documents and financial account details, just by connecting your smartphone, tablet or laptop to the same WiFi network they might be exposed on the internet. Not good!
With an expected $2.8 billion expected to be spent on Smart Toys this Christmas, it would be extremely necessary to follow a few basic internet security guidelines:
- Only buy Smart devices, including adapters, from reputed electronics companies. Low-level ones might skimp out on making their IoT (Internet of Things) stuff cyber-secure just to cut manufacturing costs.
- Only use your home WiFi connectivity for password-secure smart devices, to avoid getting hacked. Even if you just want to dim the living room lights while lying on the couch, your nearby hacker might just steal your credit card information through the remote-control system, which acts like a weak pivot.
- Some smartphone apps have been found to leak user information over public Wireless networks. Make sure you only use secure networks and reputed apps when possible.
- As all our smart devices have unique ID numbers, they can be tracked by unscrupulous hackers and thus our location, habits, sensitive details etc. can become exposed. Don’t make it easy for criminals to find you.
- Even commonly used remote controlled lights and garage doors were found to be vulnerable to hackers. Microphones and cameras could be used by them to spy on you, potentially telling them when the house is empty.
- Electronics companies have been told by the United States FTC to secure their IoT products and keep only recent and non-sensitive data to make the customers more safe while using them. Check the compliance information before buying smart gifts.
Most importantly, tell the intended recipients of your gifts that they should follow all these internet security tips to avoid mishaps. Better safe than sorry :)
Please let us know what smart gifts you are buying this Christmas. Also, don’t forget to tell your friends about this scary but necessary article.
I’m a Generalist Researcher working on a Theory of Reality, Horticulturist, Blogger, Natural Systems Analyst and Amateur Architect