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Three-quarters of consumers do not know how to secure connected devices, finds survey

Steve Rogerson
March 24, 2016
 
Despite the fast adoption of the internet of things, nearly three-quarters of consumers do not know how to secure their connected devices, according to research from BullGuard.
 
The survey found that 66 per cent of consumers were very worried about hacks and breaches against their IoT devices, and 72 per cent did not know how to protect themselves from these risks.
 
The survey of over 6000 UK residents by BullGuard, a provider of mobile and internet security, illustrated just how widespread the IoT had already become while also highlighting serious security concerns among consumers.
 
More than a quarter of consumers are planning to buy IoT devices in the next 12 months. These range from automobiles and smart TVs to heating thermostats, security systems, baby monitors, surveillance cameras, dishwashers and garage doors. Additionally, connected smart coffee makers, batteries, light bulbs and even toothbrushes are also available.
 
The survey found that two-thirds of consumers were very concerned or highly concerned about potential hacking and data theft carried out against their connected devices, with 34 per cent having already experienced a security incident or privacy problem. And 78 per cent of consumers expressed concern about security risks such as viruses, malware and hackers, while 66 per cent were concerned over data collected by device manufacturers being inappropriately used or stolen. More than half (57 per cent) are also anxious about privacy breaches.
 
The IoT industry has yet to establish common security standards among devices. Smart device manufacturers tend to adopt their own approach to security while updates to ensure device security are often too technical and complex for consumers to carry out, even those who are technically literate.
 
The research revealed that 22 per cent of consumers with advanced technical skills were not confident in their ability to keep their connected devices secure.
 
These vulnerabilities have even been acknowledged by intelligence agencies across the world. In a recent testimony to the US senate, James Clapper, the US director of national intelligence, said: "In the future, intelligence services might use the [internet of things] for identification, surveillance, monitoring, location tracking…or to gain access to networks or user credentials."
 
Paul Lipman, CEO of BullGuard, said: "Most of us have been working with internet connected devices such as computers, smartphones and tablets for some time, but the internet of things is changing our perception of personal security, for both ourselves and our data. It's not just those who consider themselves technophobes that have these concerns – tech savvy users are saying the same."
 
When asked how they would rate their computer skills, the majority of respondents – 63 per cent – described themselves as intermediate or advanced, and 81 per cent said they were capable of setting up their own router, yet when asked if they had changed their router's password, 63 per cent said no. Nearly half also admitted they did not know how, and 72 per cent did not know how to configure a router to keep a home network secure.
 
"Consumers are clearly not equipped to handle the myriad of security risks presented by connected devices," said Lipman. "With devices such as security cameras, alarm systems and door locks now being connected to the internet, physical security is becoming as much of a consideration for consumers as data security. Keeping these devices secure is absolutely imperative."
 
Consumers are looking to antivirus vendors to help them solve this problem, with 44 per cent believing antivirus vendors were responsible for securing their connected devices. The antivirus vendor was selected as the primary choice, even ahead of the device manufacturer and the ISP.