Americans spent almost $8-billion on Cyber Monday – up almost 20-percent over last year – and so far in 2018, consumers have spent just short of $59-billion this holiday season – and it’s not even December yet.
Much of that record-setting amount of money will be spent on gadgets for young and old alike; everything from drones and robots to video doorbells and wearables. In these times of internet hacks and security breaches, how can you make sure that trendy new device you bought to impress your teens or neighbors won’t end up surreptitiously spying on you and even draining your bank account?
The nonprofit software company Mozilla (the folks behind the Firefox web browser) compiled a report called *Privacy Not Included, which studied dozens of the most popular, “must-have” items people will be giving and receiving this holiday season. They looked at how well products protect user privacy and security (asking questions such as, can a product spy on you? Can you control it to make it more secure? What could happen if something went wrong?) as well as factors like price and performance. They studied six categories of gifts: Smart Home, Toys & Games, Wearables, Entertainment, Health & Exercise and Pets.
Researchers partnered with the Internet Society, Consumers International and Carnegie Mellon University to develop a set of guidelines for internet- connected products. These Minimum Security Standards include encrypted communication to prevent bad guys from seeing your data, strong password requirements, regular security updates to patch privacy holes, and privacy restrictions that let you opt out of having your data sold for marketing. Just about half of the 70 products in the guide met all of the suggested minimum requirements. A few of the more secure products include the Google Home, Apple TV, Nintendo Switch, Harry Potter Kano Coding Kit, Athena Safety Wearable, Sony PS4 and Findster Duo Plus Pet Tracker.
The report also included some red flags: Amazon’s Fire HD tablet (because the company shares information with third parties, doesn’t delete the data it stores about users and doesn’t have a default passcode requirement) as well as the Echo Show from Amazon, which stores and shares user data with third parties, though it does require a password when you set it up.
The bottom line: You should never take cybersecurity for granted, no matter the season. During the holidays, it pays to be even more vigilant and never let your guard down. Before you purchase too many items this season, contact Kobargo to schedule an assessment of your system’s security, and ask about any gadgets on your holiday gift list.
Yuval Goren has been an IT Consultant and Network Engineer since the early days of IBM 390 mainframes, coax terminals, Novell Netware 2.x and Lotus Notes 3.0. He has over 20 years of experience in systems integration, project management and the design, deployment and management of local and wide area networks, network infrastructure, as well as virtual and onsite servers. Passionate about technology and its possibilities, Goren provides innovative services that help other businesses harness the power of technology to improve profitability and operational performance.