We've seen that devices that connect to the internet can be the weak link in the web's security chain.
Last month a major denial of service attack briefly shut down several major internet sites after hackers mobilized millions of smart devices around the world.
So with all kinds of electronic devices under the tree this year, from laptops to drones, it might be a good time to think about which gifts are most vulnerable to a hack and what consumers can do about it.
Computers still number one
For a second year, Intel Security has compiled its McAfee Most Hackable Holiday Gifts list to identify hot-ticket items that pose the biggest risk. Topping the list of categories is personal computers. Whether a laptop or desktop, these devices are almost always connected to the internet and visiting websites where they can run into trouble.
Other gifts high on the list of vulnerable devices include smartphones and tablets, media players and streaming sticks, smart home automation devices, and drones. Intel Security says the ways some consumers uses these devices can add to the risk of a hack.
“Unsurprisingly, connected devices remain high on holiday wish lists this year,” said Gary Davis, chief consumer security evangelist at Intel Security. “What is alarming is that consumers remain unaware of what behaviors pose a security risk when it comes to new devices.”
Too eager to get started
Davis says the problem often lies in the eagerness consumers show in using their new gadget as soon as they get it. If they fail to properly secure it, Davis says cyber-criminals can exploit that eagerness to gather personal consumer data. That can expose them to malware or identity theft and even expose the internet to denial of service attacks, much like the recent Dyn attack that blocked access to Netflix, Amazon, Twitter, and other major sites.
Intel Security is particularly worried about drones, pointing out that sales of these aircraft are expected to explode in the next few years. Not properly securing these devices, however, can make them vulnerable to hackers who are able to disrupt the GPS signal and hijack the aircraft through its smartphone app.
To make connected devices more secure, Intel Securities suggests installing a comprehensive security software package, using only secure Wi-Fi, keeping software up to date, and using robust passwords and PINs.