Scott warns: ‘Families are currently facing one of the most critical issues at the moment, protecting personal information in a hyper-connected world. Every day we connect our lives to external sources without realizing the many ways others can exploit our digital connections.
‘Many parents have introduced wearables such as smart watches to their children’s lives, as they think it provides them with additional peace of mind about their whereabouts and safety. However, parents need to quickly realize whilst yes, these wearables have great benefits, unfortunately, they also have a number of security flaws leaving children vulnerable to cyber criminals hacking their devices.’
Recent research by McAfee has found that less than a quarter of people (23%) realize that wearable devices and connected toys for children need to have security protection. ‘Anything with an online connection is at risk to cybercriminals, but the issue with wearables is that risks associated with these products is high and children using connected toys can be exposed to malware, viruses and perhaps, most worryingly, strangers online,’ says Scott.
‘One thing that often stands out is that the excitement to use wearables straight away often means children will hand over information without even thinking about it. Despite our children being digital natives, if parents aren’t having those honest and open conversations about the use of connected devices risks will be heightened. The impact is not usually immediate and over time the data collected by cybercriminals paints a picture of the children’s lives, making them vulnerable to all kinds of cybercrime and potential attacks.’
A lot of very cheap wearables aimed at kids are now coming on stream and plugging security gaps is not a priority for manufacturers desperate to get products to market at an attractive price point.
Scott says that manufacturers should have a moral obligation to ensure that their tech is secure and that they should be held to account if they can’t guarantee this. ‘Whilst these devices can bring huge benefits to our lives, the security and, safety of our children using them should be the absolute priority and if a brand cannot guarantee their products are protected then they shouldn’t be sold,’ he says.
Without this assurance, however, parents can take steps to ensure that their children’s wearables and other devices are secure. Scott highlights: ‘Firstly, do your research. Are you choosing the most secure device you can get your hands on or does it have security capabilities that you can easily set up? When purchasing a new wearable, change the default password straight away before any use and encourage your child to do this every month.
‘However, one important approach to protecting child’s wearables, and the rest of the connected home, is implementing a solution that keeps the whole smart home secure. There are routers available that are protected with an extra layer of security, ensuring your devices on the network are safe.’
Although this is a fairly new area of development Scott believes that this will become more of a standard over the next two-three years. This will only work when the products are connected via your home router, though. Once those wearables move outside the home network and link up to an external router that extra layer of protection will be gone.