Warning: be smart and protect your families this Christmas

Hannah Baverstock of C3IA Solutions

There is an increasing risk that popular ‘smart’ Christmas presents could leave people vulnerable to cyber-attack and allow criminals to invade their privacy.

That is the message from leading cyber-security company C3IA Solutions, which has said that the market is being flooded with cheaper, less secure products.

Anything that can be connected to the internet presents a potential risk and users – which include businesses – are often unaware of the potential dangers.

There are estimated to be more than 15 billion smart devices in use across the world and many criminals are committed to hacking them.

These devices include doorbells, smart plugs, home assistants, tracking devices, smart locks and doors, modern televisions and children’s toys.

Hannah Baverstock from C3IA Solutions, which is headquartered in Poole, Dorset, has been researching the dangers.

She said: “The Internet of Things is the term for all those devices that connect to the internet.

“And while they are incredible pieces of tech that often make our lives easier, there are risks.

“And these risks are increasing because of the growing number of them and the types of company around the world producing them.

“They are designed to seamlessly fit into our lives, but they do require maintenance to keep them secure.

“Many will use cameras or microphones and so are potentially capable of invading your privacy.

“We have also seen a new wave of products that are cheaper and less secure and can become vulnerable very quickly.

“But there are things people can do to reduce the risks. Buy reliable, well-known brands that have websites, helplines and support.

“Check the reviews and buy products that have long support periods and receive regular security updates.

“All default passwords should be changed because they are easy to guess and often are available to find on the internet. And choose strong passwords – three random words is a good method.

“Disable features that are not required and also pay attention to any associated apps. Sometimes the apps ask for permission to access your camera which the device doesn’t need, so deny it permission.

“Most devices will connect to a home’s Wi-Fi and the router acts as the gatekeeper so it needs to be secure. Its default password should be changed, and any firewall should be enabled.

“It is also wise to change the SSID (Service Set Identifier) because this makes it harder for any hacker to guess the make of the router.

“Millions of devices will be given as presents this Christmas which provides hackers with another attack vector.

“Whether they want to spy on you in a voyeuristic way or gain access to your passwords they will attempt to do it through poorly secured devices.

“One thing they do is hack into multiple devices and use them as a botnet. A botnet is an army of devices that can be used to bombard targets with traffic and hide the activity of the hackers.

“If people ensure their devices are as secure as possible the hackers will quickly move on to a new victim.

“Businesses too are often unaware of the risks that internet-connected devices pose even if their computer systems have good security.”