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How To Protect The Most Hackable Holiday Gifts

by Deb Miller Landau
iQ Managing Editor

This holiday season people of all ages will purchase more hackable devices than ever before, making it essential for everyone to understand simple ways to protect against cyber-attacks.

The “”shopolidays”” are here again and with them comes the gauntlet of ads, special sales, trips to the mall and crazy crowds that are as ubiquitous to the holidays as gingerbread and pumpkin pie. ‘

Tis also the season to give and receive new gadgets like PCs, tablets, smartphones and wearable devices, all of which have the potential to bring great joy and the threat of cyber-attacks. “

A lot of this year’s hot-ticket tech items ­— everything from wearable fitness trackers to smartwatches, action cameras and drones — are appealing,” said Gary Davis, Intel Security’s chief security evangelist. “Not just to you and me, but to cybercriminals as well.”

Davis said that with a few simple actions, you can turn potentially hackable holiday gifts into secure tech toys.

2015 hackable gifts infographic

Smartwatches and Fitness Trackers

Smartwatches and fitness trackers will be high on the wish list for many people this season. But because most of these wearable devices lack significant security built in, they can be an attractive target for cybercriminals, according to Davis.

“Most wearable devices don’t actually contain much in the way of usable data for cybercriminals, but they do provide a handy, and easily-leveraged connection to their owner’s smartphone and computer,” said Davis.

Cybercriminals can mine devices for contact information and, in some cases, install malicious software (malware), he said. “

Be cautious about providing personal information to apps that support wearables.”

Davis warned that cybercriminals steal data by leveraging weaknesses in Bluetooth. This data can then be used for spear-phishing attacks, where cybercriminals pose as a familiar entity in an effort to steal sensitive data or even identities.

hand holding wrapped mobile device present

Smartphones and Tablets

Every year smartphones and tablets become more powerful and functional, which is undoubtedly exciting to consumers. But, Davis said, this eagerness to use new devices can open the door to cybercriminals if people don’t take the time to properly secure them.

When a device uses default pairing passwords for Bluetooth, like “0000” or “1234,” it’s easy for cybercriminals to gain access to the device, then mine it for contact data, or drop disastrous malware.

Drones and Camera-enabled Devices

Drones and remote controlled cameras will also top many gift lists this year. According to the Consumer Electronics Association, the U.S. market for drones will approach $105 million in revenue in 2015.

Remote cameras and drones are prime targets for hackers. They can be pried for personal information, particularly through private photos.

Again, default passwords are to blame for this, said Davis.

“Many users simply forget, or don’t know how to change passwords after logging into their new devices for the first time,” he said, adding that users should take the time to examine a device’s instructions, and change factory-setting passwords as soon as possible.

young boy smiles at robot

Children’s Gadgets

Finally, there will be many Internet-connected children’s toys this year. Davis advises parents 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.

“Learn how the connectivity works and how to manage settings and change default passwords,” he said.

For a safe, secure “shopoliday” season, Davis offers these tips:

Change default passwords.

Security will significantly improve 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.

Keep software up to date.

Smart devices require routine software updates. Often, these updates include security fixes that protect from cybercriminals. Always update devices as soon as updates become available.

Use comprehensive security.

Secure devices from malicious software and activities with a comprehensive security solution, such as McAfee LiveSafe.

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