Smart Devices, Wearables Pose Security Risks for Consumers

To ensure smart appliances stay protected, Trend Micro recommends making sure to set a secure password for the appliance’s connectivity.

From thermostats, to TVs, gaming consoles, baby monitors, microwaves and even smart refrigerators, cyber criminals are hacking into a growing selection of smart devices, stealing personal information, infecting other devices and spreading malicious content.

These new security issues led Trend Micro, a business security specialist, to offer consumers a list of tips that could help prevent their personal information from being compromised.

To ensure smart appliances stay protected, the company recommends users correctly install and set up the device, making sure to set a secure password for the appliance’s connectivity. The company also advising against leaving the password set to the appliance’s default password.

Consumers are also advised to steer clear from opening emails from unknown senders, which will ensure users do not open malicious spam emails sent from hacked appliances.

"Most consumers are not aware that smart appliances are regularly hacked," JD Sherry, Trend Micro’s vice president of technology and solutions, said in a statement. "Just as computers and mobile devices are hacked, the same can be said of smart appliances. It’s more important than ever that these devices be protected with anti-malware software."

Trend Micro also suggested consumers install anti-spam or anti-malware software on all smart appliances and devices when possible and regularly update devices when security updates or patch updates become available.

"Every time we connect a new class of device to the Internet we learn the hard way how they can be attacked and subverted," Christopher Budd, Trend Micro’s global threat communications manager wrote in a recent blog post. "We’ve seen security flaws enable attackers to hijack webcams on laptops; it’s reasonable to assume that wearables with video capture capabilities will be similarly vulnerable."

Smart devices and wearable technology all fall into the general category Internet of Things (IoT), a market that is set to explode as WiFi networks and Web connectivity continue to spread.

At the Consumer Electronic Show (CES) earlier this year, Cisco CEO John Chambers estimated that the IoE could become a $19 trillion market over the next few years.

Research and consulting firm McKinsey & Company has projected that IoE applications could drive as much as $33 trillion of economic activity by 2025, while IT analytics firm Gartner thinks that their impact could total nearly $2 trillion by 2020.

But even while Cisco touts the potential of the IoE, the networking giant has recently had to issue security fixes for several popular wireless local area network (LAN) controllers.

Prior to the updates, it was possible to compromise this hardware and use the network to stage a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack or improperly gain privileged access.

Similarly, the recently identified Moon Worm threat caused headaches last month for users of some old Linksys routers. It exploited an authentication bypass vulnerability to take over routers and then replicate itself.