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7 most hackable holiday gifts you might want to avoid
SECURITY

7 most hackable holiday gifts you might want to avoid 

With just a few days left to Nov. 27, or what has been known as Black Friday – the mega sale event in North American which kicks off the Christmas shopping season – Intel cautions that shoppers should keep in mind they could be inviting cyber crooks to their party with the tech goodies they snap up.

“Consumers are excited to start using their new gadgets during the holidays but realize some of the potential security risk that make them vulnerable,” a statement from security company said.

For example, privacy advocates are up in arms over the potential for cyber snooping because the latest Barbie doll can record its conversations with a child.

Included in Intel’s Most Hackable Holiday Gifts list are:

  • Smart watches
  • Fitness trackers
  • Smartphones
  • Tablets
  • Drones
  • Camera-enabled gadgets
  • Kid’s gadgets

Retailers across the country are counting on the public’s ongoing love affair with wearable devices and fitness trackers to keep on burning but these devices could be low-hanging fruit for hackers looking to snatch personal data.

The value of breaking into a wearable device is in its connection to a smartphone, according to Intel. With access to a smartphone, a hacker could potentially read emails, SMS or even load malware that they can use for identity theft.

Attackers can also grab control of a Bluetooth-enabled tablet or smartphone and steal information stored in the device.

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Piloting a small drone and getting a bird’s-eye-view of your office or neighborhood might be fun but it’s nothing to smile about if cybercriminals manage to lock-in on your open Wi-Fi connection and start jacking your personal data via your airborne toy.

Hackers are aware that many consumers throw caution to the wind and trade away security and privacy for the convenience of connecting to free and unsecured networks.

Kid’s toys have come a long way since that talking Teddy Ruxpin. Today, apart from the assortment of e-books, video games and remote control vehicles, children can also play with interactive and Wi-Fi enabled dolls.

Take the 2015 talking Hello Barbie. Children can actually have a two-way conversation with the first ever Internet-connected doll. The toy actually records what a child says to it and sends this data via Wi-Fi to to the cloud to trigger Barbie’s computer generated response.

Privacy advocates and experts are worried because these conversations are stored and analyzed by ToyTalk, the software company that makes this interaction happen. There have been some concerns the potential for eavesdropping or spying on children.

Mattel and ToyTalk have of course denied any intentions of snooping. Both companies parental consent is needed to activate the doll’s recording and connectivity features. Mattel said the audio clips are not shared of used to advertise to the children.

Gary Davis, chief consumer security evangelist for Intel Security, suggest the following to ensure that holiday gifts remain secure:

WIFI

Tip:

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

PASSWORDS

Tip:

  • Change the default passwords on devices. Create unique passwords across devices and accounts.

BLUETOOTH

Tip:  

  • 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

Tips:

  • 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

Tips:

  • One of the best ways consumers can protect themselves is to pair a comprehensive security solution with regular device updates.
  • People need to make sure their operating system is updated to the latest version. A cross-device security services like McAfee LiveSafe can protect all devices, data and identity.

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