McAfee announced its third annual Most Hackable Holiday Gifts list to help consumers identify potential security risks associated with popular gifts this holiday season.
The category of laptops, tablets and smartphones leads the list, followed by drones, digital assistants, connected toys, and connected appliances. In addition, McAfee conducted a survey to identify the habits and behaviours of consumers as they get ready for the holiday shopping season.
Most consumers agree that security is a necessity for laptops, tablets, and smartphones (69%). However, only 22% believe connected toys require security, 29% believe drones should be protected, and 56% think that digital assistants need to be secured.
"We continue to see connected devices high on holiday wish lists, but it's clear consumers don't always understand the importance of protecting devices at every point of connection and within products themselves," says Gary Davis, Chief Consumer Security Evangelist at McAfee. "In many cases, consumers are simply unaware that their devices need to be protected or how to protect them. This lack of awareness and action can be exploited by cybercriminals to break into devices and steal personal information."
Almost all consumers (91%) claim that they know it is important to keep their online identity and devices safe, but only 53% take the necessary steps to implement protection. Sixteen per cent assume that the manufacturer has built security into the product, and another 22% know they need to put security precautions in place but don't know how to do so. This, says McAfee, highlights the importance of consumers to conduct research about a device's built-in security settings, rather than solely relying on manufacturers to appropriately lock down their devices and data.
Laptops, smartphones, and tablets are traditional targets for cybercriminals, but if not properly secured, they can get infected with malicious applications. Sales of drones are expected to top US$1 billion in 2017, but security hasn't quite caught up, McAfee notes. Consumers need to stay mindful of risks associated with drone jacking and fake Wi-Fi signals from rogue drones.
Device-based digital assistants can help order household items, play music, provide answers to questions, and much more. However, with microphones that are always listening for a wake-up command, and many devices now equipped with cameras, it's vital to understand privacy implications, warns McAfee.
Even connected toys are not immune to risk: toys keep getting smarter, but unfortunately, so do cybercriminals. For many manufacturers, McAfee says that security can be an afterthought, and that can leave toys vulnerable to attack when hackers target built-in microphones and location-based services.
Additionally, smart home appliances can be used as pawns in an online attack, or leak information about you or your home.
To help keep your family safe during the holidays, McAfee suggests that users "think before you click," and be sceptical if you receive a link or other solicitation that you are not expecting. Always keep your device software updated. Manufacturers often plug security holes with device updates, so it's important to always install the latest versions as soon as possible. And, where applicable, use up-to-date security software.
Additionally, McAfee warns about using public Wi-Fi hotspots to connect your devices. Cybercriminals often deploy fake Wi-Fi hotspots that appear to be legitimate, but give them visibility into your browsing habits. If you have to use public Wi-Fi, refrain from online shopping or banking. If you need to shop or bank on public Wi-Fi use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to encrypt your network traffic.
McAfee suggests that consumers simply do your homework, and research if there have been any security vulnerabilities reported about the manufacturer, or the specific product, before purchasing it. And finally, the company reinforces the importance of protecting your home network, securing all of your connected devices and your home Internet connection.
McAfee commissioned MSI-ACI to conduct a survey of 1,206 adults between the ages of 18 and 55 in the U.S. between September and October 2017. Respondents were individuals who use a connected device daily.
Photo by pat138241; freedigitalphotos.net