The push for computer and online security awareness seems to become more difficult as the years roll by. While viruses and malwares, Trojans and backdoors have all been pushed into the public consciousness thanks to TV shows and movies, we think of these threats purely as computer-based.
In truth, these and other attack types can be angled through any connected device, whether it’s a smartphone, router, even a child’s quadcopter.
We’ve compiled five key threats that you need to be aware of that go beyond the standard virus-in-an-email or malware-in-your-browser that you’re more used to. These threats are so unsuspected at present that we urge you to talk to as many people as possible about them. So feel free to share this post on Facebook, Twitter, etc., or post it to people via email.
Scammers Can Use Your Smartphone Against You
This is one of those threats that you’re either aware of or you’re not. After all, how could your smartphone possibly prove a danger to your financial and personal security?
Well, we know of several ways in which a smartphone can be subverted. Threats exist in the shape of SMS spam, unsecured Wi-Fi connections, and even with the attack known as War Texting, in which the Bluetooth connection between car and phone is sniffed, potentially allowing you to be tracked or even your car stolen.
But it is the rogue apps that offer the biggest threats, especially to Android users, who should ensure that they rely only on trusted apps from Google Play.
NFC: Mobile Malware and Card Fraud
Near-field communication isn’t widely used beyond contactless card machines (that you tend to actually have to tap with your debit or credit card, therefore making contact and rendering the term “contactless” utterly meaningless) and those of us who are interested in automation. But while your smartphone might need an NFC tag to switch to map mode when you mount it on your car dashboard, this is technology that comes with some risks.
It has been shown that data transmitted between two smartphones via NFC can be tampered with, as well as intercepted. More worryingly, malware can be transmitted to an Android device using NFC.
All of this can happen without you being aware of anything, which means that you need to keep an eye on NFC. When you’re not using it, keep it switched off, whatever type of device you’re using.
Is Your Smart TV Watching You?
Enjoying weather apps and streaming TV services like Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, and Hulu Plus through your smart TV is one of the great successes of the high speed Internet era.
Back in 2013, researchers demonstrated a collection of attacks on Samsung’s SmartTV OS, with the result that local credentials and browser history could be stolen, and the apps crashed. Then there’s the lack of a software firewall, and the big privacy issue of a built-in webcam. Basically, smart TVs are a privacy advocate’s nightmare.
Meanwhile if you don’t have a smart TV but have an Android-based set top box that gives your TV smart qualities, then any vulnerabilities that already exist in Android can be exploited.
Wireless Routers Are Not Secure by Default
Over the past few years we’ve been treated to more secure wireless encryption in the shape of WPA2. But with wireless Internet being so commonplace, it’s easy to forget that often you’re connected to an unsecured public network.
And it gets worse. Your home router might actually be insecure too, either because you’ve left the default settings enabled, or because the firewall is useless. You can resolve these problems, however, either by taking the time to correctly configure your router (check the documentation for help with this) or by installing the Open-WRT router operating system on your device.
Follow our steps to avoid your router becoming a security time bomb.
Could Your Quadcopter Turn on You?
Earlier in 2015 we saw how Rahul Sasi created a demonstration malware for drones, a proof of concept demonstrating how poor security on these kidult toys really is.
The attack disables the quadcopter and the intrusion demonstrates that devices with cameras and GPS support could be hijacked and used for all manner of dangerous, nefarious, and privacy-breaching purposes.
Throw in the surprising fact that kids have a lot of toys right now with connected technology, from advanced LEGO kits to LeapPad tablets, and you have a whole new attack vector for online scammers: through the toy box.
Be Aware, and Share
Do you own any of the hardware highlighted here? We would advise you to not panic; instead, follow the links to the relevant posts and see what steps you need to take to ensure that your smartphone is secure, your NFC is disabled, and your smart TV is left unable to monitor you. Additionally, you should spend some time configuring security settings on your router, and keep a watchful eye on any connected toys you or your children have lying around…
What security threats do you find surprising? Are there any that you find people seem to be generally blasé or unaware of? Tell us in the comments.
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