Archive for the ‘smart devices’ Category

The ‘Beginners Guide To IoT’

July 11th, 2017

You’ve probably heard the term ‘smart’ being placed in front of everyday objects such as watches, locks and even cars. Over the past couple of years, the term is being used more than ever as more devices become ‘smart’. These devices now impact nearly every aspect of our lives but, as a consumer, where do you begin to understand the ‘Internet of Things’ or IoT? With so many of us relying on the internet and the cost to connect decreasing, more and more devices are being built with Wi-Fi and sensor capabilities to enable us to get connected.

As the name suggests, IoT refers to the connection between an object and the Internet, with the purpose of making products ‘smarter’ and allowing users to operate devices from afar, whether that’s from a computer or other smart device. For example, a smart lock would lock and unlock a door when it receives authorisation from its user’s Wi-Fi-connected device. Similarly, an alarm or smoke detector that is ‘smart’ would alert the homeowner if their home was under the threat of a fire or burglary, as well as collecting the home’s behavioural patterns along the way.

So how does IoT work? Usually connected via Bluetooth, Wi-Fi or Radio-Frequency Identification (R-FID), devices or ‘Things’ collect and transmit data between each other, allowing users to gain control of an object such as a TV, car or a household appliance. This process is called machine-to-machine (M2M) communication.

IoT is playing a larger role in our everyday lives and is being applied to more and more industries each day. Fridges, washing machines and even medical healthcare monitors are all becoming smart and a consequence of this is the risk of security and privacy breaches much closer to home. It is therefore critical that consumers are protecting themselves appropriately and making sure their data doesn’t end up in the wrong hands.

Here are a few tips we’d recommend running through to protect yourself:

1. A simple Google search will allow you to research products in depth before and after purchasing them from a trustworthy company — this way you are aware of any vulnerabilities your product may have and can take the necessary measures to protect your privacy.

2. Secure your router and IoT devices with firmware like the McAfee Secure Home Platform and ensure they’re set with strong passwords to avoid any unauthorised access.

3. Lastly, consider two-step authentication — this can boost your device’s security even further and reduce the chances of hackers breaching them.

To keep up-to-date with the latest cybersecurity news, take a look at the McAfee Security blog here.

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How To Bank Smart On Your Smartphone

March 30th, 2017

Life before mobile banking just seems so rudimentary now. Trying to find your cheque book, those silly bank statements (which you know you put in a safe place), or even a carpark near the bank feels old school now.

When banking became available online, the people cheered. What a huge time saver. But when banking apps became available on mobile phones, the people roared. Life would never be the same again.

Whether it’s paying your electricity bill or even the flute teacher on the go, transferring money at the supermarket register, or locating an ATM when you need cash ASAP, mobile banking has been transformational.

But while there are massive upsides to mobile banking apps, it is essential that we understand the best way of managing the risks to avoid the potential downsides. Here are my top tips to ensure you stay safe while banking on your smartphone:

1. Never Ever Store Your Banking Passwords On Your Smartphone

I know it sounds super obvious but a clever crim knows exactly how to locate your banking logins and passwords on lost or stolen phones. Please commit them to memory and don’t even think about trying to hide them in your phone contacts.

2. Avoid Using Public Wi-Fi For Mobile Banking

A shared, unsecured Wi-Fi hotspot could actually be a trap set up by a lurking hacker intent on stealing any data you share while connected. Please try very hard to avoid using public Wi-Fi’s but, if you are absolutely desperate, ensure your chosen Wi-Fi hotspot is reputable and password protected.

3. Be Aware Of Shoulder Surfers

Most of us bank on the go, so being aware of others snooping over your shoulder while conducting financial transactions is essential. Take the time and sign up for multi-factor authentication which will reduce the threat of a shoulder surfer stealing your banking logins.

4. Protect Your Phone And Install Security Software

Many of us have protected our laptops with security software but don’t remember our phones. Top notch security software will not only protect you from downloading viruses and malware, it can also remotely wipe your data if you lose your phone. Intel Security offers free McAfee Mobile Security to secure both Android™ and iOS® devices.

5. Ensure You Are Using Your Bank’s Official App and NOT A Fake One

Fake apps are one of the latest ways hackers are worming their way into our private lives and getting their hands on our private information. One way to ensure you reach your bank’s ‘real’ app on either the App Store or Google Play is to click the link from your bank’s own website. And just to be doubly sure, before you tap download, check out the reviews to ensure no one has had any issue with it. Unfortunately, not everything is legitimate.

6. NEVER Click On A Link Sent To You By ‘Your Bank’

Cybercriminals spend a lot of time and resources trying to direct consumers to fake websites they have created that look almost exactly like the real thing. So if your bank has sent you an email and you’re just not sure, please navigate yourself to the site. Do NOT click on that link. Remember, a secure website URL should start with ‘https’.

7. Say ‘YES’ To Your Bank’s Security Offerings

Many online banking platforms have a number of additional security offerings to protect their customers and minimize the impact of stolen logins. Multi-factor authentication, daily transfer limits and transfer notifications are just a sample. So please, say YES to all of them and give yourself another layer of protection.


And if you have teens in the house who are on the cusp of managing their own finances, please make sure they know how to avoid the pitfalls of mobile banking. While they may think they have mobile banking ‘all sorted’, they may need a few reminders about how to make good decisions… Ah, the joys of parenting!!

Till next time…

Take care!

Alex x

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Posted in app security, cyber safety, Cyber Smart Family, Family Safety, smart devices | Comments (0)

If we can’t trust technology we won’t (and shouldn’t) use it

February 27th, 2017

Walking this year’s Mobile World Congress I am no longer thrown by the devices, gadgets and flashy booths, but completely mystified at how we as an industry continue to hype up the idea of a truly connected world without addressing one of the most important pieces – security.

As someone who’s been in the industry for almost 20 years, you’d expect me to be shocked that many businesses still aren’t addressing something so key, especially as consumers are starting to question it. In the last year, more people than ever have started asking me: “So Raj, what about my security?”

Hurrah – finally – some people are catching on, and at least asking the question. But whether or not they’ll act upon it is what concerns me…

Don’t get me wrong. Whilst it’s great some people are waking up to the realities that come with a connected lifestyle which, let’s admit is everyone at this stage, there is still a lot of work to do. Ultimately, it’s the industry’s – that’s right, every single person at MWC and beyond – job to lead this.

Because at the moment we’re failing. Our recent survey, for example, found half of us have no idea how to check if our devices have ever been compromised and a third are unsure how to check if a device has been breached. So although many may be starting to consider device security, it doesn’t mean they necessarily know how to manage it. Yet, here we are at MWC giving these same people even more technologically advanced devices to play with – when we know most are unsure how to protect themselves – whether that’s with their phones, computers, kids toys, or now – connected homes and cars.

The truth is that with awesome technology comes great responsibility.  So what do we – both consumers and businesses alike – do to ensure that such technology coming out of big shows like this are safe?

  • Put security first: security cannot be an afterthought in any device manufacturing process. It must be considered upfront by manufacturers in order for any underlining issues to be addressed and catered to
  • Be transparent: enough of the hiding, let’s be honest with consumers about the risks associated with using certain technology. Instead of hiding away and hoping it’s all ok, vendors must at least educate and advise the user on how to best protect themselves including recommending security software suitable for that technology
  • Take control: whilst I want to see manufacturers leading the way when it comes to security, consumers can and should do their bit too. Take device security at home for example where the home network is the hub for all connected devices. New solutions, such as McAfee Secure Home Platform, will help people easily manage and protect devices connected to this network while providing parental controls with permissions that can be tailored to the entire household


We must be able to trust the new technology that’s making our world a hyper-connected one – as inventors, product developers, manufacturers, technology leaders from the word ‘go’ in our development cycles, through to the consumers’ lives when they use it. Trust has fallen down across our societies because of all the security hacks, risks and wider vulnerabilities that technology has opened up. It’s our job – each and every one of us – to help change that via our actions as an industry. Let’s continue producing amazing and innovative technology that helps change and advance our lives, but let’s protect ourselves – our friends, our economies, our neighbours and the wider industry – while we do. The more we can work together to build this trust, the better off each technology will be for everyone.

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Posted in Executive Perspectives, Mobile World Congress, smart devices, smart home | Comments (0)

From Smart Shoes to Safe Routers: Innovation Shines Bright at CES 2017

January 12th, 2017

CES 2017 (the Consumer Electronics Show) has come and gone once again, bringing with it the newest wearables, state-of-the-art tech platforms, robots, and all things IoT. And as connected devices displayed their illustrious potential throughout the event, they also come as an indication of parallel efforts to come from cybercriminals. Meaning, as technology evolves, so do cyberthreats—a topic area that I was able to explore with event attendees during the Cybersecurity Forum panel, “Evolving Threats in a Connected World.”

Beyond this panel discussion on creating a better security posture in the face of advanced threats, let’s review what ultimately drives that evolution—the devices and innovations emerging from CES. Here are a few of my takeaways from the event:

Wearables continue steady growth

Wearables have continued to explode over the past few years, and this year’s CES proved that there’s no sign of slowing. From fitness-tracking rings, to nausea-relief wristbands, to eye-tracking glasses, to smart running shoe insoles, CES brought users technology that was personalized, thoughtful, and environmentally conscious. Not to mention a lot of it. 

Machine learning takes center stage

IoT is aiming to become more human, as smart device manufacturers know that machine learning has become a huge competitive differentiator. While Amazon’s Echo (a.k.a. Alexa) is still the most popular product out there, many companies put their stake in the ground and entered the machine learning-infused consumer product race at this year’s CES. For example, a robot designed to be a home assistant, named Kuri, emerged that responds to commands and handles tasks with voice and image recognition.

At a higher level, CES also highlighted how integral machine learning is becoming via their keynotes. One example: the speech from Carnival Cruise’s CEO Arnold Donald, where he dove into how technology, especially that powered by machine learning, is becoming a crucial aspect in just about every industry. Machine learning, he noted, gives companies the ability to provide a tailored and streamlined user experience that is unmatched by anything else.

Encryption solutions get further explored

Now, for a bit on gadget security at CES (the good stuff). Wedged between connected egg cookers and smart headphones was software that encrypts smart home commands. This kind of software can work with existing or new smart home systems, and encrypt (scramble up) any personal data cybercriminals might use to manipulate connected devices. This solution makes IoT security both feasible and easily organized—and, not to mention, is becoming increasingly important in the face of continuous ransomware encrypting data on its own terms. Remember it’s not often that ransomware plays nice (like Koolova does).

Cybersecurity is tackling IoT security at the router level

Just as innovative encryption solutions are growing, so are alternative security solutions that aim to protect connected devices and homes from evolving threats. One emerging solution? A new ARRIS router, which has the McAfee Secure Home Platform built into it. The ARRIS Surfboard SBG7580-AC offers protection nearly identical to the McAfee security software you might have installed on your desktop or laptop, except it extends protection to every device connected to your home network. In other words, if your smart lightbulbs or connected toaster see an attempted hack, the router will detect the threat and suspend an at-risk device’s internet access, so crooks can’t leverage it to gain access to your entire home’s connected kingdom.

All in all, CES 2017 proved that innovation isn’t slowing down, and that also goes for connected devices and the technology that protects them. Both the IoT and cybersecurity landscape are adapting to the needs of folks like you and me, to make sure everyone is securely connected in the New Year and beyond.

Be sure to stay on top of the latest consumer and security trends by following me and @IntelSec_Home on Twitter, and Like us on Facebook.


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Securing Today’s Connected Home

January 4th, 2017

When thinking of cyber threats, malware, phishing, and data breaches typically come to mind. But as 2016 has shown us, threats don’t stop there. Cybercriminals are getting more and more creative and finding new, sophisticated methods of attack to access our data. One of the more successful methods as of late: attacking connected IoT devices in the smart home.

These smart home devices can be almost anything – a connected thermostat, lightbulb, camera, the list goes on. In fact, according to Gartner, there are 5.5 million IoT devices connected in homes each day around the world. And with all of these devices connecting to one router, there’s now that many more gateways into your smart home network, making it more susceptible to compromise.

The question is: how likely is such a breach? Many of these connected devices are manufactured with low security standards. Just remember what happened with the Dyn DDoS attack. Low device security standards caused one of the largest Internet of Things (IoT) botnet attacks in recent history, affecting almost the entire east coast in the process.

I know what you might be thinking – that attack was caused by compromising thousands of IoT devices. But, if a handful of these devices are located in a single home, while the damage may not be as widespread, it can get personal. Once a cybercriminal finds their way inside your home network through these devices, the hacking possibilities are virtually endless. They can control your entire home— flicker your lights, access your camera to peer into your life, shut down your devices, and worst of all, capture any personal data sent across the network.

Now, with all of these devices—in addition to your computer and phone — making up unique (and hackable) gateways into your smart home network, a new security approach is needed. This approach is layered security or sometimes referred to defense in deapth. The way to create this in your home is by adding protection directly into your gateway to protect all the devices in the home. Additional security such as a firewall and antivirus should also be used to protect your network and PCs, laptops, mobile devices and Macs.  This layered security strategy is the approach that businesses use to safeguard their data and employees.

While companies like ours work to help ensure your connected homes are as secure as possible, there are a few things you can do directly to protect your smart devices today. Here are a couple of tips for protecting your connected home network, today:

  • Change up your passwords. Take standard security precautions with your connected devices, such as regularly updating your login information. Frequently changing the passwords on both your home router and smart home devices is an easy way to ensure your network is better secured. Make sure the passwords are hard to guess.
  • Apply updates: Very often these connected device manufacturres will create patches to the firmware to fix known bugs and often implement improved security. It’s important to apply updates when notified by the device manufacturer.
  • Be mindful of who’s connecting to your network. We typically don’t think twice about handing out our Wi-Fi password to visitors in our homes, but it’s important to limit access to your network. You can’t keep track of everyone’s activity, so remain conservative and limit who’s getting entry to your gateway.
  • Do your homework. When looking to purchase a new IoT device for your home, do your due diligence – research the manufacturer, check security standards, read reviews. If the device doesn’t seem up to par, it’s not worth the risk.

And, of course, stay on top of the latest consumer and mobile security threats by following me and @IntelSec_Home on Twitter, and ‘Like’ us on Facebook.



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