Hackable holiday gifts put your security at risk - WMBFNews.com, Myrtle Beach/Florence SC, Weather

Hackable holiday gifts put your security at risk

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – With the holiday season in full swing, shoppers are making their lists and checking them twice. But as you make your way through shopping malls and cyberspace, it’s not only how you buy gifts that puts your security at risk, it’s also how you secure the gifts you buy.

Many of this year’s hot-ticket tech items —from wearable fitness trackers to drones — not only top your loved one’s lists, but cybercriminals’ lists as well.

Camera-enabled devices and drones are big ones this holiday season. Everybody wants to capture their every move with camera-enabled devices – and even to capture aerial views with gadgets such as drones.

Cybercriminals could steal personal data from someone looking to connect to an open Wi-Fi network while a drone is flying overhead. This takes advantage of the fact that consumers are often willing to sacrifice security and privacy for the convenience of connecting to unsecured networks.

“If they go to connect to it and it’s asking for something it shouldn’t need in the first place…if it’s a smart watch and it’s asking for your contacts, it needs your contacts especially if you’re going to make phone calls,” said Justin Gray, General Manager at iFix Mobile Solutions and Electronics. “That’s understandable. But if you’re buying a helicopter and it needs your contacts, it doesn’t need your contacts. It’s more of a common sense thing than anything else.”

If you’re using WiFi, make sure you’re using your own WiFi and have secure passwords. If you’re connecting to an untrustworthy source, like your neighbor's WiFi, anything connected to it is not safe. Gray said if someone wants to hack you they will, but having something as simple as a password will make it a whole lot harder.

Smart watches and fitness trackers are poised to generate major sales this holiday season.

The value of breaking into a wearable device is its connection to a smartphone. With access to a smartphone, a hacker could potentially read emails, SMS or even install malicious software they can use for identity theft.

Hacking kids’ gadgets can also pose a major threat. E-books, social apps and remote control cars – kids love connecting with tech, and while one would hope that children's toys are safe, there are safety concerns that parents should be aware of. In the past there have been examples of people hacking into baby monitors or nanny cams. Unfortunately with children's gadgets and social apps, security is rarely considered, so it falls onto parents to make sure their child's latest toy is safe.

“I wouldn’t use a doll that gives any kind of pictures or audio over the internet, unless it’s done separate, said Gray. “It needs to be downloaded from the doll, put it on the computer, then uploaded, not direct feed. If you’re going to do direct feed, get a phone or a tablet, something that’s designed to be secure.”

There will be many Internet-connected children’s toys this year. That means parents will need to take the time to understand how a toy — be it a remote control car or a doll — connects and interacts with the online world.

So, what can you do to keep your gifted gadgets safer? Here are a few simple steps you can take:

Wi-Fi: Use caution when connecting over public wireless hotspots. If a person must connect, they should not conduct sensitive transactions.

Passwords: Create unique passwords across devices and accounts. This is probably one of the best methods of better securing your devices this holiday season. By simply changing a device’s password to a complex one — at least eight characters in length with numbers, symbols and upper and lowercase letters — you’ll adopt a significantly improved security posture.

Bluetooth: Unless a person is using their Bluetooth connection on their mobile device, they should leave it turned off. If they do use their connection, they should ensure they have a unique password. 

Online shopping: People should be careful of where they type their username and password. When using sites to make purchases online, consumers should take care to ensure they are logging into those sites and not into carefully crafted imposter webpages.

Device security settings and operating systems: One of the best ways consumers can protect themselves is to pair a comprehensive security solution with regular device updates.

Copyright 2015 WMBF News. All rights reserved.

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