Don’t Let the Grinch Hack Your Christmas!

What’s on your family’s Christmas list this year? Let me guess – technology! Our desire for shiny, fast, connected devices is almost a biological condition this time of year. However, our single-minded desire to get these devices in our hands at all costs, often means we forget about the risks…

To try and understand how us Aussies are planning on managing the risks associated with this season’s must-have Christmas gifts, McAfee Australia interviewed over 1000 Aussies aged 18-55. Participants were asked whether they were planning on buying internet-connected gifts this Christmas, how they plan to buy them and what they know about how to secure their new devices. And the findings were very interesting…

  • Online shopping is Booming But We Are Taking Risks!

76% of us are likely to purchase gifts online this coming holiday season – an increase of 2% from last year. And while most of us will purchase from online stores of well-known retailers,

some of us (18%) will choose stores that we find randomly through online shopping searches.

  • There Is Still Confusion About Protecting Our Devices

90% of us feel it is important that our online identity and connected devices are safe and secure but alarmingly, only 14% of us feel that it is necessary to protect devices with security software – down from 15% in 2016.

  • Our Devices are Collecting Our Information But Most of Us Are OK with It

Many consumers (76%) believe their devices are collecting their personal information

  • Some of Us ‘Need’ The Latest Devices At All Costs

Despite acknowledging that our chosen device may be susceptible to security breaches, 22% of us still commit to buying it!

There is no doubt we value our digital assets with 61% of us believing their digital assets (our online files and media) are worth more than $1000 and 34% worth more than a whopping $5000!!

So, What Does This All Mean?

There is no doubt that we love our technology! In fact, in recent research from Telefonica, we are ranked 3rd worldwide when it comes to embracing technology. We even beat the Japanese!

However, the way we shop online, protect (or not) our devices and share our information plays a major role in how easy (or not) it is for cybercriminals to hack us, putting our much-loved digital assets at risk. And add a dose of Christmas cheer (and chaos) into the mix – and you can see how the risk increases!

Which Are The Most Hackable Devices?

To minimise the chance of the Grinch (aka cybercrims) ruining our Christmas this year, McAfee Australia has compiled a list of the devices most Australians have nominated as top of their Christmas lists. Each of the device’s security vulnerabilities has then been highlighted so you can take the required steps to ensure you are not hacked!! Here’s the lowdown:

1. Laptops, Smartphones and Tablets

According to our McAfee experts, laptops, smartphones and tablets take out first place for being the ‘Most Hackable’ gifts for Christmas 2017! As soon as those Christmas decorations come out, so do the sexiest models about. Slim, powerful yet light PCs, laptops and smartphones packed with the latest features and apps fill the stores… and we go into a frenzy!

Risks: Malware, especially ransomware, continues to dominate the headlines and has grown to more than 10 million samples worldwide. Just like laptops and PCs, tablets and smartphones are vulnerable to ransomware and can be compromised.

Tips: Slow down and think before clicking. One of the easiest ways for cybercriminals to infect your PC or smartphone is through malicious links. Be sceptical if you receive a link you are not expecting, use comprehensive security software that is kept updated, and install parental controls on all your children’s devices.

2. Drones

Drones won second place this year in the ‘Most Hackable’ stakes and it seems we can’t get enough of them. US drone sales are expected to top US$1 billion (A$1.3 billion) in 2017, up from US$799 million (A$1.04 billion) in 2016. And what a terrific gift – perfect for the amateur flight enthusiast through to the professional photographer looking to get that unique angle from up high!

Risks: Drones can be vulnerable in multiple ways. While it’s true they can be hacked in flight, they can also emit a Wi-Fi signal designed to steal your personal information after connecting.

Tips: Always keep the software updated on your drone, and apply software patches when they are made available from the manufacturer.  Be careful about connecting to unsecured Wi-Fi networks. If you must connect, do so with a Virtual Private Network (VPN) like McAfee Safe Connect.

3. Digital Assistants

The must-have tech gadget of 2017, the Digital Assistant comes in at 3rd place on the ‘Most Hackable’ honours list. Digital Assistants are without doubt the perfect gift for anyone. However, like any connected device digital assistants can also be the target of cybercriminals. As new technology comes to market the cybercriminals are always trying to stay a step ahead – Digital Assistants are no exception!

Risks: Built-in microphones that are always listening for a wake-up command and, in some cases, cameras, can be compromised and turned into listening devices.

Tips: Just like your smartphone or PC, be sure to keep your device’s software up-to-date, and never allow physical access to anyone you do not trust.

4. Connected Toys

Coming in at 4th place, Connected Toys seem to be featured on every mini digital native’s Christmas list this year. Many of the must-have connected toys come equipped with GPS chips, cameras and an interactive conversation ability making them super attractive!

Risks: Be aware of the privacy and security risks that could affect connected toys. Manufacturers may not be putting the device’s security as a top priority which could leave it vulnerable to leaking personal information, location, or even allow a hacker to hijack the camera or microphone.

Tips: Research before you buy to make sure the toy you plan to purchase has not had any reported security issues. If the toy comes with a default password, ensure you change it to something more secure. Finally, monitor children when they are playing with connected devices and turn the toy off when it’s not in use to ensure that their privacy is being protected.

5. Connected Appliances

Vacuums, refrigerators, bathroom scales and cameras that connect to the internet aka ‘connected appliances’ are also on hackers’ lists this year. I’m very partial to some of these devices – they just make modern life so much easier!

Risks: While an attack on your refrigerator is unlikely, it’s not unheard of for connected home appliances to be hijacked and used as a pawn in a distributed denial of service attack (DDoS). A connected appliance could also leak personal information or provide details about your home, like its size and dimensions, making you a bigger target for cybercriminals.

Tips: Do not allow your connectable devices to connect to the internet without any filtering. Always change your connected devices’ default manufacturer passwords to something strong and complex. Read the privacy policies provided by manufacturers so you know exactly what information your device is collecting.

Before you start wrapping up your shiny tech Christmas gifts, please make sure you have a plan in place to protect the device from a Christmas hack. Why not write share a few of the above tips with the lucky recipients in their Christmas card? Or better still, why not spend a little time on Christmas Day working through it together. A great Christmas bonding exercise!

Happy Christmas!

Alex x

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