The internet has revolutionized the way we communicate, but it has also made us more exposed than ever before. If you’re like many people, you regularly send your banking information, your home address and even your social security number across a wire on the assumption that the transmission is secure.
In addition to these more common transactions, a wealth of data about everything from your family history to your professional background to your driving records is likely stored somewhere on a computer that you keep connected to the internet. Is that really safe?
Unfortunately, the answer is probably no, but that doesn’t mean you should panic. Even in situations where criminals do break into commercial systems and steal personal data, the majority of it goes unused. Keeping a low profile is probably enough to keep you safe from a targeted attack. But wouldn’t you feel better knowing your info was in fact secure?
There are ways to make sure it is. It begins with understanding how criminals access your data. Now what you can do to reduce your risk? Things like using strong passwords for your home router and personal accounts, avoiding public networks like those at airports and cafes, and knowing how to identify potentially malicious emails. These best practices can improve your security on your personal computer. However, it’s important to keep in mind that your computer isn’t the only device a cyber-criminal might try to exploit.
Much of the same valuable data that you send and receive on your personal machine is transmitted over other devices. Devices you might never have thought of as being a potential vulnerability present an attack vector you may not have even thought of.
Your smartphone is a treasure trove of information for cyber-criminals because of the way these devices are used for banking, social media and business. Your phone also travels with you wherever you go. It could be exposed to threats on a variety of different networks.
When you travel, I’d recommend that you disable Bluetooth, which offers relatively poor out-of-the-box security. For extra security, you can install a security application from your favorite network security vendor. There are many to choose from in both the Apple and Android app stores.
As tablet use increases, these largely unprotected internet appliances are becoming great targets for criminal activity. While iOS malware does exist, the vast majority of attacks against tablets are targeted at Android users. To avoid malicious apps, only install software from your vendor’s respective app store.
Since most tablets will be used in and around your home, the same network security policies that keep your other devices protected are recommended. Security vendors such as Avast!, Norton and ESET provide tablet-specific solutions that include free and paid options and can identify threats on your Android device.
That tricked-out infotainment system in your new ride is pretty sweet, but it also represents a potential attack vector. As far back as 2010, hackers in Texas were launching attacks network-aware systems in cars.
The potential outcome of an attack on your car is scary. While it’s not likely your data will be stolen, a hacker might lock you in the vehicle or disable important systems like the ABS or power steering.
Check your vehicle manufacturer’s website for information about any recalls or software updates. And always use your own trusted USB or other removable media when interfacing with your car. If you do believe you’re the subject of a hacking attack, pull over and call for help.
The biggest issue with these cool new devices is that many of them don’t have built-in authentication. In other words, if you were to lose your device, or if it was stolen, anyone would get to the data on it. That becomes scary when you think of the way many smartwatches plan to add payment features — or already include them.
Apps for these small devices were also sighted as vulnerable. With the market so new, it seems manufacturers are playing catch-up when it comes to security. You might want to wait to pick one up until they work out the security bugs.
There are cameras on more things than you think these days. Just about any laptop has one, your smartphone might even have two, your home security system may use them and many new baby monitors offer a camera feature that works through the internet.
If you don’t protect access to these items using a password, or again by using a strong password for your home router to stop outsiders, they could be broken into. There are websites dedicated to the display of unprotected live camera feeds from personal devices — that’s just creepy. Make sure yours are locked down.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is here, and researchers are already identifying vulnerabilities in wearable devices that could potentially be used to attack other devices on your network.
One example is the popular Fitbit fitness tracker. Researchers at security firm Fortinet exploited a vulnerability in the Bluetooth-enabled wristbands. It could potentially allow them to be used to transmit malicious code to your computer via Bluetooth.
While Fitbit states that the vulnerability didn’t actually allow for any data theft or attack to take place, even communication with the tracker’s online portal could allow access to personal info.
It’s a bold new world we’re living in, and if you use even one of these devices without considering your security, I encourage you to get smart today. As cyber-attacks increase in their frequency and severity, making sure of your own security should always be your first priority.