Cybersecurity Blog

What you Should Know Before you Buy an Appliance/Toy that Connects to the Internet. – 03/03/17

Technology is an amazing thing.  Everyday we hear about new and exciting technological advances. We can now control our home with our voice, see who is ringing our doorbell at home while we work, track the movements of our teenagers and have our toys interact with us.

Unfortunately manufacturers have been so busy keeping us entertained and making our lives easier that they have forgotten to keep us safe as well.  The majority of these devices do not allow for firmware updates, changing the access passwords or usernames. Security is usually last on the list, leaving many devices with huge holes that cyber criminals can use to gain control of these them.

You may be thinking what is the worst that can happen if they get control of my coffee maker? Well if they gain access to your coffee maker, they can turn your coffee maker into a bot, instructing it to visit a particular website or server. On its own, this is harmless. However if hackers turn millions of devices into bots, it overwhelms the website and crashes the server. This is called a Denial of Service attack. It prevents customers from accessing a site and making purchases,  costing businesses millions in revenue.

Even more concerning are those devices containing cameras or microphones. They can record images of us or our voices and send them to some distant server where security often takes a back seat and our private lives may be monitored. Companies can collect this information and then use it to sell us products. In addition, their often poor security practices can allow hackers to intercept the information or steal it from servers.

So how do you protect yourself and your privacy while still enjoying the wonders of technology?  Here are a few things to consider when purchasing internet connected devices for your home.

  • Do not purchase products that do not allow you to change the default password.
  • Do not purchase products that do not allow the firmware (the software that runs the device) to be upgraded.
  • If the device has a camera or microphone, determine what is being recorded, why is it being recorded and where those recordings are being stored.

Once you have made the purchase and brought your new toy into your home there are some things you can do to protect your data and privacy.

  • Change the default password.
  • Keep the firmware updated.
  • Don’t enable the features that require an Internet connection unless it is really necessary.
  • Disconnect it from the Internet when you are not using it.
  • Cover up recording devices that are not being used.

Don’t give up your privacy or put your security at risk, just because something is super cool.  Not sure if that feature is worth the risk? Ask yourself…is having my coffee pot automatically order beans for me worth loosing access to my bank accounts?