Your Smart Gadget Just Might be a Privacy Risk

Internet of ThingsNow that the holiday season is behind us, it’s time to get back to the important things in life, the things that really matter most – presents. Chances are, among your pile o’ gifts there were some internet-connected gadgets and they, like any internet-connected device, can be a security and privacy risk.

We’ve come up with some simple things you can do to guarantee your privacy without much hassle.

The internet of gadgets

As you get familiarized with your new network-ready wine bottle opener and think “Gee isn’t the internet-of-things grand”, now would be a good time to pause and think about the device in your hand. This new doo-dad isn’t simply a slick, new-age way to open your next bottle of Sauvignon Blanc – It’s actually a computer, connected to the internet and a potential target for bad guys. Bet you weren’t thinking about that when you bought Scruffy his GPS-enabled “Buddy Collar” that not only lets you see where doggie is from afar, but also allows you to track his fitness levels, calorie intake and sleep quality.

Analysts predict that within the next 3-4 years, another 20-30 billion internet-connected devices will reach the market. And this means that not much time is spent on making those devices. Most of the time the aspect that gets the shortest end of the straw in production is security. Few and far between are startups that can afford to take time beta testing security procedures. For many device brands, the idea is to get the design to production as fast as possible and see what happens after it’s released. The end result is that the internet-connected tea kettle sitting on your countertop or your shiny new garbage can that alerts your iPhone when it needs to be changed is potentially hackable. Companies know this and bad guys know it too. But how much do you know about protecting this new generation of tech-enabled stuff?

How to protect yourself and your devices

You’re probably pretty savvy and know that when it comes to your computer and mobile devices, you need solid antivirus protection to stay safe. You know to use complicated and unique passwords for each of your logins and accounts you have. You stay wary of emails promising you that you just won $30 million in an international lottery that you never even entered (all you need to do to get your prize is send in all your bank details… uh sure…). Now you can add protecting all your cool new internet-connected toys to your list of stuff to worry about.

Luckily, there are some things you can do to keep safe while enjoying your new tech:

  • Resist the urge to jump on latest trends – As mentioned above, smaller companies often rush their products to the finish line. The earliest models can become security guinea pigs and you don’t need to be a part of their experiments. If you can (and we bet you can), hold out for a slightly later model when the most obvious security flaws have been fixed.
  • Switch manufacturer preset passwords – Devices often come with preset a password that can be found on the company website or in discussion forums. Change that password to a solid one asap.
  • Consider your router – Your network-ready devices rely on your router for connectivity. If your router is compromised, you’re in big trouble in every way. So make sure it’s as secure as possible by changing your router password, disabling your guest networks and setting up multiple networks, with a dedicated “internet of things” network. Separate your mobile and computer networks as well. This way if one is hacked, the other networks are safe.
  • Install a solid anti-virus program – Your computer is a hub for your devices. You connect them to charge, or unload data, and again you’re using the same router for both. Without a strong antivirus program, nowadays not only are you inviting hackers onto your computer, you are giving them free reign on all your internet-connected devices as well.
  • Check up on the company – Do your homework and find out all you can about the brand and their security scorecard. Have they had incidents in the past? How did they respond? How long did it take to fix the problem? If you don’t like what you find out, steer clear of their product.

There are more internet-connected devices than there are humans so that’s a pretty significant number and the security concerns are real and growing. Perhaps it’s not possible to stop every device from being hacked but you can surely do your part to help minimize the risks. So go forth, young grasshopper, and bask in the mirth of your internet-connected thing-a-ma-jig, but do so with your thinking cap on. We promise you’ll still have fun.

 

Tell us in the comments about any gadgets you have that are connected to the internet.

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