In Defense of Devices: Cyber Security Concerns Spread Beyond Your Phone
We’re always hearing about the connected future, an “Internet of Things” (IoT) where our smartphones and tablets are joined online by ever more devices: cameras, TVs, microwaves and fridges, even baby monitors. It sounds great, but every one of those internet-connected devices is another security concern, as Symantec’s 2014 Internet Security Threat Report demonstrates only too clearly.
As the report states, last year saw high-profile hacks of baby monitors, security cameras and even home routers by cybercriminals. Meanwhile, security researchers dug around in the software of other devices and found ways to attack smart televisions, cars and – most horrifying of all – medical equipment. That doesn’t mean criminals are actively doing so just yet, and the potential financial gain from hacking certain devices is debatable, but the rapid adoption of connected devices means a growing number of relatively untested targets.
Protecting against attacks
In the future, manufacturers must thoroughly invest in and prioritise proper robust security features, especially with the amount of data these devices collect and store on users. They are improving in this regard, but right now the onus is largely on you, the user, to adopt best practices and take the necessary precautions.
With criminals turning back to old-fashioned worms as an attack method, a hacked wireless router becomes an access point for redirecting your family and friends to fake websites, usually to steal their financial details. Vulnerabilities in routers are patched out as they’re discovered, so make sure you have the latest firmware installed on your important devices. You can download firmware from the manufacturer’s website, where you’ll also find instructions for installation.
Hackers can also gain access to your networked devices via their online settings pages, so always change the default password once you’re up and running – and for something like a wireless router that means changing the admin password as well as that of the Wi-Fi network itself.
The most connected devices we carry with us are smartphones, and they’re vulnerable to many attacks too. In the middle of 2013 remote access Trojan toolkits began to appear for Android, and the “Master Key” vulnerability allowed attackers to modify legitimate apps to include malicious code.
It’s scary, but there are ways to protect your mobile devices. The biggest vulnerabilities get patched out in updates, so it’s vital that you run the latest version of the OS on your phone or tablet. An Android phone should be running at least version 4.3 or 4.4 if supported, while all compatible Apple devices should be updated to iOS 7.
And of course you can add an extra layer of protection by downloading and installing Norton Mobile Security. Unlike many of the fake security apps for Android – yes, that’s another thing to watch out for – Norton Mobile Security is a powerful and safe tool for scanning, detecting and nullifying rogue apps before they can do damage to your phone and expose your personal data. It’s a precaution worth taking.