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6 Tips for Security Savvy Consumers

Batteries Not Included – Securing the Smart Gifts You Give This Christmas

Does your 2017 Christmas list include smart gadgets, wearables or pet robots? With the ‘smart’ sector predicted to double its sales over the next 3 years, it’s likely that net connected goods will become ever more ubiquitous as our Christmas ‘must haves’. On the one hand, this will relieve numerous families across the land of the annual emotional meltdown on receipt of goods in which batteries should be, but are not, included. On the other hand, we will need to start managing a new yearly tradition, in which your 9-year old’s joy of receiving Anki Cozmo is halted, as you scramble to check the security standards and change the password.

Where are the Security Shortfalls?

This year the UK’s data regulator has warned that many of the net-connected toys your kids will clamour for fall short when it comes to security. Poor passwords and poor patching potential are major vulnerabilities for any product hitting the High Street, but when the target market is children, the need for vigilance become more acute. We know that poor security can provide access for hackers into your home network, open up the potential for turning toys and gadgets into spying devices, and provide potential botnets for DDoS attacks. In the absence of effective security regulation on the smart sector, we are all responsible for ensuring that we take precautions to secure ourselves, our family and our colleagues.

Six Tips for Savvy Consumers

Forewarned is forearmed so here are six pieces of advice – with links to clear instructions for carrying them out. In the Christmas Spirit, we hope you’ll pass them on:

  1. Google Your Gift – check out whether its security vulnerabilities are being discussed by concerned consumers on the net. 
  2. Take the Pain Upfront – check out the security settings on any gift you purchase, and be prepared to spend a while changing the password, and limiting tracking or access.
  3. Security Starts at Home – take steps to secure your home wireless router. There are some easy steps to protect the access into your home devices.
  4. Limit Your Location – if the gift you’re giving is fitted with a camera, or geolocation tracker, these are vulnerabilities which are attractive to hackers. You should consider very carefully whether to deactivate them. 
  5. What’s Your Range? – unless the Bluetooth on your smart device, or toy, has been secured, anyone in range can connect without you knowing. Establish ‘trusted deviceson set up, if you’re able, and switch to ‘non-discoverable’ when not in use. 
  6. Something to Add To Your Gifts – If you find yourself wrapping up your presents on Christmas Eve and you just don’t have time for any of the above, slip the attached note in with your smart gifts to ensure that your recipients know what to do to secure themselves and their family this Christmas.

We’re all having to individually assess the risks we encounter as we increase the connectivity of our homes, cars and clothing. As we hit the shops this Christmas – knowing where the threats lie, and what simple steps we can take to be secure, helps us to make decisions about the level of risk we’re buying into, and how to avoid the major vulnerabilities.

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