On my first Mother’s Day 21 years ago, I received a pair of gorgeous fluffy pink slippers. Last year – it was a sleek shiny green Fitbit! Technology has absolutely transformed our gift giving and Mother’s Day is no exception.
The rising popularity of internet connected gifts means many lucky mums will receive a glossy new device on Mother’s Day. It may be a digital home assistant, a fitness tracker or even a big new Smart TV. Whatever it is, we must understand the potential risks involved when giving or receiving an internet enabled device. Because we don’t want to put our mums (or our families) at risk.
But don’t let this change your shopping plans! Like anything in life, if you’re prepared you can minimise the risks and avoid getting caught out by cyber threats. So, here is the low-down on threats posed by some of the more popular gifts this Mother’s Day and tips on how to protect against them.
Digital Home Assistants
Regardless of which brand you might choose, a digital assistant can be a massive help for any busy mum. Whether it reading the kids a bedtime story or a recipe while you cook, or setting timers – it’s the closest thing many mums can get to another set of hands!
However, there are risks associated with these mother’s helpers. If your home assistant is hacked, your personal information could be at risk. Which means your bank accounts details or your identity could be put at risk. And as the device is ‘always on’, your personal assistant can listen to and record what is being said around your house – a definite privacy issue.
What to Do to Stay Safe
- Protecting your Home Wi-Fi is an essential step to ensuring your home assistant is secure. Solutions such as McAfee’s Secure Home Platform, available soon on D-Link routers, will secure all your devices that connect to your Home Wi-Fi, including your home assistant. So, you have protection and peace of mind.
- Always change the manufacturer’s default password when setting up the Wi-Fi and ensure you create a complex, unique one instead. A combination of lower and upper-case letters, numbers and special characters is ideal.
- Don’t allow your home assistant to store your private information. I also advise against allowing your home assistant to store passwords, credit card data, or any of your contact information.
A wearable fitness tracker might be at the top of your mum’s wish list this Mother’s Day. But there are some surprisingly worrying security risks surrounding the popular gift that she should be aware of.
Researchers have found it is possible to crack PINs and passwords by hacking into the motion sensors to track hand movements. Additional research shows that the encryption offered by wearable fitness tracker manufacturers is quite easily intercepted. This means all your personal data stored on the device can easily be hacked. And while info like your calorie intake and step count many not seem valuable to a hacker, information like where you worked out and how long you were away from home can paint a very valuable picture of who you are!
What to Do to Stay Safe
- Keep your fitness tracker up-to-date. Just like with any connected device, as soon as software updates become available, download them immediately to prevent cyber criminals from hacking your device.
- Set up your fitness tracker and any associated online accounts with an obscure user name and unique passwords, that are completely unrelated to any of your other accounts.
- Consider disabling certain features of the fitness tracker if you feel that your privacy many be jeopardised.
Whilst buying mum a smart TV would certainly make her feel spoilt this Mother’s Day, they can come with a more sinister side. In March 2017, news emerged that it may be possible to hack into smart TVs to spy on users. Since then, several critical vulnerabilities have been found in Vestel firmware, which is used in more than 30 popular TV brands. These vulnerabilities could be easily leveraged to spy on smart TV users through the microphones and cameras.
What to Do to Stay Safe
- Buy smart TVs with security in mind. When purchasing a smart TV, it’s always important to do your homework and read up on any current vulnerabilities.
- Secure your home’s internet at the source. Smart TVs, like all connected devices, must connect to a home Wi-Fi network to run. If they’re vulnerable, they could expose your network as a whole. Since it can be challenging to lock down all the IoT devices in a home, again a solution like McAfee Secure Home Platform can provide protection at the router-level.
If you are shopping online for mum, please remember to keep your guard up. Only shop from secure websites where the URL begins with ‘https://’ and a lock icon appears in the address bar. NEVER, EVER shop using unsecured Wi-Fi. It can leave you vulnerable to all sorts of nasty attacks and your private information may be hacked by a third party.
Finally, and most importantly, don’t forget to thank your wonderful mum for everything she has done for you. A handwritten card with a few lines of thanks is extremely powerful!!
Happy Mother’s Day!!