Before we get onto the note of caution, for those currently observing Seasonal Holidays around the world, we’d like to wish you all a joyful and safe time with your loved ones. For many of us, it’s the time to exchange gifts, many of them being tech gifts that are internet enabled, or come equipped with a microphone, camera, and other “smart” capabilities. Privacy and security risks posed by internet-enabled, smart devices are concerning enough to garner attention even from public media.

What makes consumer IoT devices targets of interest for attackers? There can be several reasons:

  • IoT devices are not always engineered with a focus on security
  • Consumer devices are not as diligently patched and updated
  • A single IoT vendor vulnerability could allow an attacker to take control of potentially thousands of devices to form a potent botnet
  • Smart devices are notoriously data-hungry and can act as a treasure trove for attackers on a hunt for sensitive information
  • Limited security awareness amongst consumers often results in insecurely configured devices open to the internet

As consummate security enthusiasts, before you connect any of your “smart” gifts to the internet:

  • Familiarize yourselves with the known hacks and attacks targeting or involving IoT devices from this awesome compilation
  • Consider segmenting your home network to isolate less trustworthy smart devices
  • Ensure you keep your device firmware up-to-date and device software patched
  • Learn about the security features included, but not enabled by default
  • Take the time to understand the privacy policy of the vendor, esp. for devices with audio/visual capabilities, and make sure you are comfortable with the vendor’s data handling procedures

With proper precautions, there is no reason to not enjoy your smart scale, fancy drones, or your internet-connected intelligent toothbrush. Also, remember that this period of the year is an especially active time for cyber attackers, so be extra vigilant with your online activities.

And as a parting note, if you are eager to learn about attacks of the past and looking for books to read in the warmth of the fireplace this winter season (unless you live in the Southern Hemisphere), give these a try: