Tips to protect new tech gifts


28 November 2016

The Number 1 most hackable gift category included laptops and PCs, followed by smartphones and tablets, media players and streaming sticks, smart home automation and devices, and finally, drones, said Intel Security in its second-annual McAfee Most Hackable Holiday Gifts list.

“Unsurprisingly, connected devices remain high on holiday wish lists this year. What is alarming is that consumers remain unaware of what behaviours pose a security risk when it comes to new devices,” said Gary Davis, chief consumer security evangelist at Intel Security.

Consumers, he said, are often eager to use their new gadget as soon as they get it and forgo ensuring that their device is properly secured. "Cybercriminals could use this lack of attention as an inroad to gather personal consumer data, exposing consumers to malware or identity theft or even use unsecured devices to launch DDoS (denial of service) attacks as in the recent Dyn attack.”

The recent distributed DDoS attack was carried out by a botnet made up of unsecured webcams and other internet of things (IoT) devices, and crippled many popular websites connected to the Dyn domain.

"It’s important that consumers understand they can help fight these attacks by ensuring their devices are updated and patched, which helps mitigate risks from the latest threats."

The study by Intel Security surveyed 9,800 consumers aged 18 to 55+ who use an internet-enabled device on a daily basis.

According to the survey, while a majority of consumers are aware of the vulnerabilities in older connected devices like laptops (73 per cent), mobile phones (70 per cent) and tablets (69 per cent), they lack awareness about the potential risks associated with emerging connected devices, such as drones (20 per cent), children’s toys (21 per cent), virtual reality tech (18 per cent), and pet gifts (11 per cent).

While 75 per cent of consumers believe it is very important to secure their online identities and connected devices, nearly half are uncertain if they are taking the proper security steps, the study reveals.

To stay protected for a happier and safer holiday season, Intel Security offers the following tips:

· Secure your device. Your device is the key to controlling your home and your personal information. Make sure you have comprehensive security software installed.

· Only use secure Wi-Fi. Using your devices, such as your smart home applications, on public Wi-Fi could leave you and your home open to risk.

· Keep software is up-to-date. Apply patches as they are released from the manufacturer. Install manufacturer updates right away to ensure that your device is protected from the latest known threats.

· Use a strong password or PIN. If your device supports it, use multi-factor authentication (MFA) as it can include factors like a trusted device, your face, fingerprint, etc. to make your login more secure.

· 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.

According to Intel, this year’s most hackable holiday gifts include:

1. Laptops and PCs – Laptops and PCs make great gifts, however, malicious apps targeting PCs are unfortunately common, and are not just limited to Windows-based devices.

2. Smartphones and Tablets – Survey results revealed that 64 per cent of consumers plan to purchase either a smartphone or tablet this holiday season. Just like PCs and laptops, malware could result in personal and financial information being stolen.

3. Media Players and Streaming Sticks – Media players and streaming sticks have changed the way consumers enjoy movies and TV, but consumers can unknowingly invite a cybercriminal into their living room by failing to update their device.

4. Smart Home Automation Devices and Apps – Today’s connected home devices and apps give users the power to control their homes from their smartphone. Unfortunately, hackers have demonstrated techniques that could be used to compromise Bluetooth powered door locks and other home automation devices.

5. Drones – Drone sales are expected to grow to more than US$20 billion by 2022. They can provide unique perspectives when it comes to shooting video and photos. However, not properly securing the device could allow hackers to disrupt the GPS signal, or hijack your drone through its smartphone app.