How To Stay Protected When Using Connected Devices

By : |November 27, 2018 0
Staying Safe in a Hyperconnected World

By Venkat Krishnapur, Vice-President of Engineering and Managing Director, McAfee India

With over 400 million internet users in India, more data is being shared online now than ever before. Consumers are increasingly leaving behind their digital footprints in the form of personal information which is unwittingly being exposed to cybercriminals. One of the biggest enablers of this data proliferation are IoT-enabled consumer devices, which allow users to follow a smart and connected lifestyle.

According to a report released by NASSCOM, India is expected to witness a boom in IoT devices in the near future, with the number expected to reach 2.7 billion by 2020. With the country poised to account for nearly 5 per cent of the global IoT market, there will be an increased adoption of this technology in connected homes and smart consumer wearables. On the occasion of International Computer Security Day, let us take some time to delve into and understand the related security concerns of connected devices.

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A user’s personal information is the fuel that a connected device uses to carry out most actions. This often results in Internet of Things sometimes being referred to as “Internet of Me”, which loosely refers to technology which connects our minds and bodies with the online world. For example, most of us today use a smartwatch to track the progress of our fitness goals. The information we feed into this device is thus synced with our phones and laptops. Despite the convenience provided, the consumer exposes himself to possible identity thefts and data hacks.

One of the most common techniques hackers use to break into connected consumer devices is by creating ‘Robot Armies’. While this may sound like the stuff of sci-fi movies, Botnets, as they are called, are a collection of connected devices such as your PC, webcam or even home routers that are infected by malware. Hackers take advantage of the low levels of security in connected consumer devices and leverage the computing power of all infected devices to launch targeted cyberattacks and bitcoin mining.

Despite an increased awareness and reporting of cybercrimes, consumers still believe they will remain untouched by a cybercriminal. This optimism bias is what drives a successful cyberattack. In our lives, while an average person is aware of basic preventive and safety measures, the cyberspace is still unexplored territory for many consumers who have limited to zero understanding of cybersecurity. Between genuine ignorance and misplaced bravado, they unwittingly or wittingly expose themselves online.

IoT enabled devices, by the virtue of being less prioritized for cybersecurity, are the potentially the weakest link holding the entire connected ecosystem together. Firstly, users should familiarize themselves with the inbuilt security features of the IoT device.

How to Minimize Cyber Risk?

• Most connected devices today require the user to create an account and set a strong password using numbers, symbols or alphabets. Passwords are the easiest to guess if someone has your personal information; it is therefore recommended to use a password manager and change your passwords frequently.

• Consumers should also remain vigilant of any unfamiliar changes in their device settings. Device manufacturers send regular software updates in sync with the latest developments in cybersecurity landscape. One must update the device as soon as they receive a notification from the software provider. Any delays in doing so may expose the user to unanticipated cyberattacks.

• Make sure to turn off any automatic services activated on your IoT devices such as access to GPS, photographs, contacts and such sensitive information.

In order to execute the basic protocols of device security, members of a connected home should foster a culture of cybersecurity. Every member of the connected network should agree with the importance of cybersecurity and be fully aware of the lurking risks. Similar to an enterprise, connected consumer devices also require a holistic security architecture.

Consumers should, therefore, invest in centralized cybersecurity management solutions to ensure cross-platform multi device protection from the ever-changing technology landscape. Secure Home Platforms that are integrated into the routers are an ideal solution to minimize the attack surface. These platforms build in security and provide a secure connection between smart home devices within the home network as well as external.

IoT devices are like remote controls, we provide hackers control to our smart lives – right from smart toys, digital assistants, cameras among others. In this hyperconnected world, consumers must, therefore, understand both the potential benefits and risks of using IoT enabled devices to find a good balance between convenience and security. Maintaining adequate safety measures and aligning healthy security ethics is the key to being safe in this connected world. At the end of the day, it is a combination of common sense and smart tools that will enable a more secure experience online.

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