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Household Devices Cybercriminals are Using to Spy on Us in our Own Homes

Mar 11, 2021

Image: Supplied

Faizel Patel – 11/03/2021

(Twitter: @FaizelPatel143)

Check Point Software Technologies has published research warning people of the five household objects that are being targeted by cybercriminals to spy on individuals in their own home.

It is estimated that there are more 22 billion devices linked to a home internet connection around the world and research suggests this figure could reach 38.6 billion by 2025.

While hyper-connectivity offers countless benefits, it also increases the number of available attack points to hackers and invisible intruders.

Check Point Security Engineer Nomatter Anderson says with the current lockdown restrictions and the amount of people working from home, it is no surprise that cybercriminals are focusing their efforts on possible security breaches in devices.

“Mobile phones, Smart TVs, computers and toys are just some of the devices being targeted. The number of products that feature a camera or microphone is growing every day, which can become an issue if they are connected to the internet and do not have the necessary security measures in place.”

The devices that cybercriminals have targeted includes:

Televisions:

Most televisions on the market today not only incorporate an internet connection, but also have a camera and microphone so that users can make video calls through their TV. Many models also have voice controls so a TV can be turned on without touching a remote control. It’s important to remember that these devices can see and hear everything that happens within a particular room, so an apparently innocent looking object can be used as an attack point for an intruder to gain access to your home. The best way to avoid these risks is to cover the camera when not in use or disable or restrict the permissions of these applications.

Computers:

Desktop and laptop devices can store an infinite amount of data, both personal and work related, which presents an attractive opportunity for cybercriminals to gain access to them. Both have microphone and camera functions that can be used by third parties to spy on individuals or used for financial gain. Covering the camera or restricting the permissions of the microphone are important security measures to take to protect privacy. It’s also important to install comprehensive security tools that regularly analyse the status of software, applications and documents in order to detect any malicious activity on the computer.

Mobile phones:

The one device that faces constant acquisitions of intruding on people’s private lives is a mobile phone. With the number of functions, a phone incorporates it constantly knows everything from our current location to personal bank details. It’s important to only download applications from recognised sources and check the permissions that have been granted to each app. Having security tools such as Sandblast Mobile, a mobile threat defence solution, can help protect devices against advanced mobile attacks.

Children’s toys:

A vast number of toys sold today incorporate technology, such as drones, robots, remote control aeroplanes, and games consoles, and all have the ability to connect to the internet. However, other more traditional products such as soft toys or dolls have been updated and incorporate the functionality to download a mobile application to access new features. This can pose a risk to children’s privacy. In fact, in some European countries, some toys have been banned for spying on and extracting sensitive data from minors.

Household appliances:

Many smart appliances have the capability to work for us when we are not at home. In 2019, a famous and successful kitchen robot sold in Lidl supermarkets was found to have a built-in microphone that recorded shoppers’ conversations, but it is not the only household appliance to be suspected of spying on us.

Anderson says there are countless devices connected to the internet that make our lives easier, but we are often unaware of many of the permissions we give to these tools or, even worse, their potential vulnerabilities that a cybercriminal can exploit.

“Looking at the privacy aspect alone, the number of these electronic devices with a webcam or microphone has grown significantly in recent years, from mobile phones and tablets to Smart TVs, games consoles and more traditional toys.”

Anderson says at Check Point they believe that learning how to protect all these devices and knowing the risks they present are essential steps to avoid falling victim to cybercriminals.

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