Be wary of smart devices

Be wary of smart devices

We live surrounded by smart devices. From our pockets to our driveways, in our living rooms and at our offices, they offer convenience and, in many cases, extra security. Gadgets fitted with computing power and internet connectivity can, however, also become a target for remote hackers, says Carey van Vlaanderen, CEO of ESET South Africa.

Smart cars meet smart hackers

Earlier this year, a TikTok trend helped thieves hack certain models of Kia and Hyundai cars. According to Bloomberg, in TikTok videos showing the so-called Kia Challenge, mostly teenagers gave instructions on how to unlock certain Kia and Hyundai models. By inserting a USB cable into a broken steering column, the videos show how thieves can hotwire an engine, in much the same way as using a screwdriver. In the past, obscure skills and knowledge were needed to break into and start a car. Today, though, thieves or anyone else can easily access this information online … sometimes even on social media.

Van Vlaanderen notes that several ethical hackers, who use their skills to identify security vulnerabilities and raise public awareness, have found vulnerabilities in various smart car models. These allowed the hackers to start the cars, sound their horns, or flash their lights, either remotely or from nearby.

“Unfortunately, there is not much car owners can do about cybersecurity of their vehicles aside from having a general awareness about the vulnerabilities inherent to any device connected to the internet, and taking steps as advised by manufacturers as and when needed,” she says.

Get savvy about smart building technology

Van Vlaanderen adds that one of the biggest attractions of smart technology for buildings, particularly in South Africa, is using internet-connected devices to remotely secure offices and personal dwellings. “Despite the ease smart security devices provide for protecting against theft, damage, or accidents, smart devices also create the risk of lowering personal data security,” she points out. “Two major flaws in connected building make them susceptible to attacks: vulnerable local networks and weak IoT devices.”

Wi-Fi connections can be at risk if they have simple default names or easy-to-guess passwords. Even though some smart devices come with built-in security features, Van Vlaanderen says it’s essential for owners to take extra precautions. This includes setting up strong passwords and using two-factor authentication. This means when you try to log in, you’ll either need an extra code, or approval from your phone or a specific app to access the device.

How to protect your smart devices and online privacy

Securing smart devices is crucial in today’s interconnected digital world. Here are Van Vlaanderen’s top tips to help ensure the safety of your devices:

  • Change default passwords and always use strong passwords.
  • Update your device’s firmware and software regularly. Manufacturers often release updates to fix known security vulnerabilities.
  • Whenever possible, enable two-factor authentication.
  • Turn off any unnecessary features on the device. Disable the microphone if you don’t need your smart device to listen for voice commands.
  • Use a trusted security solution like ESET to ensure your online protection and privacy. 
  • Educate yourself about the security features of any smart device before purchasing it.

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SHEQ Management

SHEQ MANAGEMENT is the definitive source for reliable, accurate and pertinent information to guarantee environmental health and safety in the workplace.
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