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Beware of smart devices at home. Someone could be watching or listening

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Why do we let artificial intelligence (AI) and the companies that provide it to us penetrate our privacy? Are they a help or do they enhance our problems? Can we set limits? That is the question that arises when faced with the idea that a third party may be listening to us, even looking at us, through the smart devices in the home.

According to data from Check Point Software Technologies, a provider specialized in cybersecurity, there are more than 22 million devices of this type in the world. There are some who are more susceptible than others to suffer hacks by third parties with the aim of spying and obtaining sensitive information about those who live in a home.

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Is it possible that smart home devices could become a ‘window’ through which cybercriminals ‘enter’? To say smart device means, among other things, that the device has a microprocessor, which requires software to function, and currently it surely offers some form of internet connection. “The vulnerabilities of these devices have different origins. On the one hand, the software it can be vulnerable and the usual way to counteract it is with updates, but many do not have effective mechanisms to update it, which means that although there are known problems, they are not solved. Another situation has to do with the fact that most are designed by people who, in some cases, do not have experience in dealing with security issues. It also happens that they are designed thinking about the functionality it offers and not so much about the security that is needed, because security costs and is not visible to users until something fails”, says a group of specialists, professors at the Free University of Colombia made up of Diego Marín Lozano, Juan M. Cárdenas Restrepo and Fabián Castillo Peña.

The risk is also increased if these devices are accessed from unsecured networks, public Wi-Fi. Photo: Shutterstock

As users, when buying one of these smart devices, they think about comfort and not much about the risks they bring, they emphasize. “It is forgotten that when we connect to the Internet, it is actually the entire Internet that connects with us. It is important that the access passwords that come by default from the device manufacturer are changed, that is one of the most common forms of access to have your control. On the other hand, it should also be ensured that they are not visible on the network if the device is wireless”.

Let us remember that a smart device connected to the internet has limited capabilities, so they connect to the network to have cloud services that allow them to access processing/storage/communication, which they do not have installed. “For example, a smart doorbell with a camcorder would need a hard drive to store all the video it captures, which increases the cost, instead the internet-connected device sends the video to the cloud, saving the cost of the internal drive. Storing the video in the cloud also allows the user to review it from their cell phone from anywhere in the world”.

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What computers can be susceptible for cybercriminals to spy on us? Any smart device connected to the internet is vulnerable. “The risk increases if the configuration that comes from the factory is not adjusted to make it safer. And this increases for each passing day if the software with which they come. The risk is also increased if these devices are accessed from unsecured networks, public Wi-Fi, etc. It increases with inexpensive devices from unknown manufacturers that use widely available and vulnerable generic components.

It is important that the access passwords that come by default from the manufacturer of the device that has been purchased are changed. Photo: Shutterstock

Televisions, computers, mobile phones, tablets, toys and household appliances in general are on the list, but what should we do and what not to counteract this? Specialists recommend valuing security over functionality. “Smart devices dazzle with the ‘benefits’ they offer, they make life more ‘comfortable’. Being able to see what is happening in the house because IP cameras have been installed (they work on the internet protocol) that can be seen from the cell phone is ‘comfortable’, ‘useful’, but the risk that some criminal may also be observing the interior of the house because they violated the security of the camera, it should at least make us think if that ‘comfort’ is worth the risk”, question the experts.

The risk is high and must be minimized. “Home, business, and personal security policies can be created for device usage. A good practice is that if a smart device is not being used, it should be disconnected from the network and power. Also train, identify and learn about bad practices to learn and not repeat them.

Cellphones: If there is a device ‘accused’ of meddling in people’s private lives, this is it. The amount of functionalities that they incorporate allows them to know our location or state of health at all times, going through personal data and bank credentials. You have to be careful when downloading applications (only download the official ones) and check the permissions that are granted to avoid being spied on. It is also essential to have security tools or mobile threat defense solutions that protect devices against advanced mobile attacks.

Any smart device connected to the Internet is vulnerable. Photo: Shutterstock

Computers: both laptops and desktop computers (PC) are devices that store countless data, documents and proven information of their owner. These devices have both a microphone and a camera, functions that if not deactivated, will spy on what we say or that could be used by third parties for financial gain. Covering the camera or restricting microphone permissions are important steps to take.

Toys: many of these and that are fashionable are technological. Drones, robots, airplanes, game consoles, dolls, among others, have an internet connection. However, other more traditional products such as stuffed animals or dolls have been updated and include the possibility of downloading a mobile application to access new features. This can pose a risk to the privacy of the little ones.

TVs: the majority available on the market not only incorporate Internet connection features, but also have a camera and microphone so that, through them, video calls can be made or voice commands can be issued that allow the user to turn on the television, use the phone or change channels without touching the remote.

It is important to remember that these devices can hear or see everything that is said or done in the room where they are located, so an apparently innocent element can be used to interfere in our private environment.

Source: Eluniverso

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