Put a password on IoT – Six devices you should secure right now

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There are many cyberattacks that keep us up at night but none has affected our lives as much as Mirai did back in 2016.

As a quick primer, Mirai was a piece of malware that could find and break into internet connected devices and corral them into a botnet that could be used for cyberattacks. At the time, one of the main points of infection were security cameras that were connected to the internet.

Since reporting on that story all those years ago, we’ve made a point of securing any device we connect to the internet with a unique, secure password and today we hope we can inspire the same behaviour.

We have this hope because the Internet of Things (IoT) is only growing and unsecured connections can lead to bad things whether it’s somebody stealing your data or spying on you while you vegetate on the couch.

Further to that, if you’re working from home, the last thing you want is for your work PC to be infected by way of your TV.

Thanks to Check Point Software Technologies, we have a list of the five most popular devices in your home targeted by ne’er-do-wells. We’re adding a sixth to that list, but we’ll explain our reasoning in just a bit.

“Mobile phones, Smart TVs, computers and toys are just some of the devices being targeted. The number of products that feature a camera or microphone is growing every day, which can become an issue if they are connected to the internet and do not have the necessary security measures in place,” technical director for Check Point in Spain and Portugal, Eusebio Nieva, explained in a press release.

“Taking into account the current lockdown restrictions and the amount of people working from home, it is no surprise that cybercriminals are focusing their efforts on possible security breaches in these devices to spy on users and collect a large amount of sensitive information while they are at home,” the director continues.

So what devices should you be securing or perhaps even consider replacing?

Televisions

Many televisions are placed in prime positions in the home and if your TV has a camera and a microphone, then you best secure it.

We recommend purchasing a privacy cover for your TV’s camera or, simply using a piece of tape to cover it up. It’s also worth reviewing the apps your TV uses and the permissions for those apps. Check to see which apps are able to access the camera and microphone and restrict permissions where possible.

Your computer

Yes this might seem obvious but the number of times we’ve seen family PCs left to accumulate malware and other nasties means this is a point worth reiterating.

Keep your PC or notebook up to date as much as you can and make use of a good and well trusted security solution.

While unplugging your webcam and microphone can stop folks from spying on you, the methods employed by cybercriminals are what we’d describe as innovative. For this reason it’s better to have a security solution installed that can make sure there aren’t keyloggers and other malware lurking about.

Children’s toys

This may seem surprising to some but, if a device can be connected to the internet, one has to assume it is a potential target for cybercriminals.

“A vast number of toys sold today incorporate technology, such as drones, robots, remote control aeroplanes, and games consoles, and all have the ability to connect to the internet. However, other more traditional products such as soft toys or dolls have been updated and incorporate the functionality to download a mobile application to access new features. This can pose a risk to children’s privacy,” explains Check Point.

It’s vital that parents know what smart functionality the toys they give their kids have. If a toy can be set up with a password, we recommend doing that no matter how much effort it seems like it might require.

Appliances

As more appliances come online you might want to consider how much data they are funnelling up.

While securing individual devices is tricky, you can opt to purchase products that make security a feature not an extra.

For instance, the Hamilton Beach Smart Coffee Maker collects voice recordings but it’s unclear whether those voice recordings are ever deleted. This is just one of many household appliances that have concerning privacy policies.

To that end we highly recommend checking Mozilla’s Privacy Not Included list which details some of the most popular products from around the world and rates their privacy policies.

You can find that list in full here.

Smartphones

We’ve touched on smartphones as a point of entry for cybercriminals before so we won’t dwell on this.

Make sure you’re checking what permissions apps are requesting often and in addition, only install apps from a trusted source such as the Google Play Store and Apple App Store.

We also highly recommend making use of a security solution for your smartphone, just in case.

Security cameras

Our own addition to this list is security cameras because despite what happened in 2016 with Mirai, many security cameras aren’t secure.

A quick search will yield many results for feeds of security cameras which are connected to the internet without a password. In South Africa alone we found 88 unsecured cameras with feeds all streaming live to the internet.

For anybody who is setting up a new security camera system, we beg you to put a password on the cameras lest they are hijacked by cybercriminals.

With cybercriminals looking to exploit any vulnerability they can, now is the best time to start securing your home.

[Image – CC 0 Pixabay]

Brendyn Lotz

Brendyn Lotz

Brendyn Lotz writes news, reviews, and opinion pieces for Hypertext. His interests include SMEs, innovation on the African continent, cybersecurity, blockchain, games, geek culture and YouTube.

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