Can your Christmas present be hacked?

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Families could be inviting some unwelcome guests into their home this Christmas, due to the number of hi-tech gifts under the tree.

Around 11 millions households across the country will be exchanging presents, such as gaming devices or smart TVs, that could fall victim to cyber-crime. Worryingly, one in five children aged between five and 12 already own gadgets and toys that are vulnerable to being hacked.

The research was carried out by online security company Hide My Ass (HMA) following the recent hacking of smart toy firm Vtech, in which the data - including recorded conversations - of six million children was stolen.

The statistics revealed that more than half of households are unaware internet-connected products are at risk, even though three of this year’s must-have Christmas toys are potentially vulnerable to hackers.

Cian McKenna-Charley, marketing director at www.hidemyass.com, said: “The rules around what privacy means are being rewritten in this age of smart products. The Vtech hack was just the most recent of a string of worrying cases where the security of smart tech was all too easily compromised. We’ve recently seen smart TVs listen to families’ conversations and track their viewing habits and children’s dolls hacked to say swearwords or exposed for recording children’s voices.

The research also revealed that 28 per cent of family homes already own at least ten gadgets that could be hacked by cybercriminals or used by corporations to snoop on families and gather data about them. These include gaming devices, laptops, smartphones, ebook readers, TV streaming devices, smart children’s toys, wireless speakers, a smart watch and wearable fitness devices.

HMA has created a free book - called I Spy With My Little Eye: Things That Spy On Me - to help parents and children identify the household products and gadgets that are vulnerable.

Mr McKenna-Charley added: “Families need to be aware of the potential dangers that come with the increasingly connected home so they can make informed choices about the products they bring into their lives. Over and above encouraging families to play ‘I spy’ as a means to better understand the issues, we would urge homeowners to install a VPN on their routers or purchase a VPN-enabled router. This one simple step can provide robust protection for multiple smart products and keep families safe from the prying eyes of third parties and the malicious intentions of cybercriminals.”

Visit www.hidemyass.com or ispyhidemyass.bigcartel.com to order a copy.

PROTECT YOURSELF FROM HACKERS

More than seven million cyber crimes are now committed each year. Here’s HMA’s top tips to prevent being hacked:

Protect your router with a virtual private network (VPN), which will encrypt data.

Always read the privacy policy or terms and conditions for any product.

Only use trusted wireless networks and apps.

Use strong passwords and never leave the default password in place.

For children’s toys, operate the product offline if possible.

Carl DAmmassa, Group Managing Director  Business Finance, Aldermore

Aldermore supports more than £1bn of asset finance to UK businesses in 2017