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One in 10 Smart Home devices in UAE remain unsecured: study

Recent global research from Norton by Symantec reveals one-third of UAE consumers have smart home devices, and an overwhelming majority of them (86 percent) find they simplify their life. However, while they welcome the added convenience Internet-connected thermostats, TVs, gaming consoles and baby monitors offer, consumers’ lax security habits and overconfidence in connected devices are leaving them vulnerable.

Recent research by Symantec found that an unsecured Internet of Things (IoT) device is attacked within two minutes once connected to the Internet. According to the Norton Cyber Security Insights Report, a survey of nearly 21,000 consumers globally, including 883 in the UAE, people are beginning to recognise that with each connected device purchase, a new avenue opens for hackers to launch attacks in their home.

  • One in two (50 percent) believe that as connected home devices become more popular, hackers will start targeting them more often.
  • More than half (55 percent) believe it’s more likely someone could gain unauthorised access to their connected home device than to their physical home.
  • A whopping 64 percent believe connected home devices provide hackers new ways to steal their personal information

Yet despite acknowledging the security risks that come with the smart home, device vulnerabilities and poor consumer security habits are increasingly acting as an easy on-ramp for hackers to access them.

  • One in 10 connected home device users in the UAE don’t have any protective measures in place for their devices.
  • One in six (18 percent) admit their Wi-Fi network is not password protected
  • One in five (19 percent) do not change the default password when setting up their Wi-Fi network
  • Half (49 percent) admit they don’t know how to set-up a secure home Wi-Fi network or router and more than half don’t know how to keep its software up-to-date (70 percent)
  • More than half (58 percent) of consumers surveyed don’t believe there are enough connected device users for them to be a worthwhile target for hackers.
  • More than two-thirds (68 percent) of consumers said they believe connected home devices were designed with online security in mind. However, Symantec researchers identified security vulnerabilities in 50 different connected home devices ranging from smart thermostats to smart hubs that could make the devices easy targets for attacks.

“There have been an array of high-profile attacks in recent months demonstrating how cybercriminals are taking advantage of poor device security to hijack consumers’ home networks, spread malware and launch botnet attacks unbeknownst to their device owners,” said Tamim Taufiq, Head of Norton Middle East. “While smart devices may offer some notable benefits and convenience, there are also risks associated. Just as hackers learned to benefit from targeting social media and financial accounts, they are on their way to learning how access to connected home devices can be lucrative.”

Recent incidents involving home-connected devices include the massive Mirai botnet cyberattack in October 2016 from common smart household items, which took major websites down across the globe. There was also an attack that allowed anyone on the Internet to watch live footage of thousands of home webcams and baby monitors, as well as cases where people modified the thermostat of their ex-spouse or disabled security locks. There have also been reports of people taking control of home automation systems belonging to others. The US Federal Trade Commission settled a case against a firm that makes Internet-enabled security cameras and baby monitors. The FTC said that the cameras had been marketed as secure when, in fact, “the cameras had faulty software that left them open to online viewing, and in some instances listening, by anyone with the cameras’ Internet address,” the FTC said. “As a result of this failure, hundreds of consumers’ private camera feeds were made public on the Internet”.

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