Are Your Gadgets Spying On You?

A recent investigation conducted by Which?, the NCC Group and the Global Cyber Alliance found that after equipping a home in the UK with some of the most popular smart home devices on the market, a total of 14 cyberattacks happen per hour. These results are eye-opening and certainly, a reason to take an in-depth look at the types of devices we bring into our homes. It’s scary to think what is supposed to protect us can actually be our biggest threat.


According to Cwatch.com, some common reasons for hacking include basic bragging rights, curiosity, revenge, boredom, challenge, theft for financial gain, sabotage, vandalism, corporate espionage, blackmail, and extortion. Hackers are known to regularly cite these reasons to explain their behaviour.


So what happens when hackers are looking to gain access to something that doesn’t necessarily involve a monetary “reward” for them at the end, and what exactly are they? Here are five gadgets hackers can gain access to and how to protect yourself and your family:


1. Voice Activated Speakers:

It seems more and more people are adopting smart home systems like Amazon’s Echo and Google Home – and why not? They pose a great level of convenience in terms of controlling your home’s lights, temperature and even security systems. But what happens when the little doohickey gets hacked and wreaks havoc on your and your loved ones lives? For one, they could allow criminals to be privy to your personal information and schedules, such as when you’re going out to an appointment and when the house will be empty. Additionally, for those that do run their home alarm systems through their smart home device, criminals can easily switch it off and come and go as they please. To protect yourself and your family, it’s recommended to switch off your voice-activated speaker when going on holiday and limit the amount of information you run through them. 


2. Smart TV’s

Smart TV’s are easily accessible via the WiFi network it’s connected to, similarly to the others on this list. Pranksters might want to hack your television to turn the volume all the way up (possibly giving you the fright of your life) or order a bunch of movies on your accounts. But the darker side to this is hacking into your streaming platforms like Netflix, Hulu, Disney+ etc. for the purpose of gaining your credit card information or even using it to spy on your home, as stated by the FBI. Many Smart TV manufacturers set the same default passwords to the same types of devices that they sell, so it’s super important to change that as soon as you unbox your TV. Additionally, stick to the golden rule of changing your passwords to something unique every three to six months.


3. Pacemakers:

Now this one is a shocker! In 2017, the FDA had to recall approximately 465,000 pacemakers for fear that hackers with malicious intent could change the pace of someone’s heart, resulting in death. Since, ultra-secure codes have been implemented by companies such as MedCrypt, which protects medical devices such as these from attacks while monitoring the devices for nefarious activity in real-time. 


4. Baby Monitors:

The thought of some stranger hacking into your child’s baby monitor is enough to send chills down your spine. Today most modern baby monitors come with a WiFi connection so parents can conveniently check-in on their little ones via an app. In 2019, an 8-year old’s monitor was hacked by an unknown man stating that he was “Santa Claus” and asked the little girl if she wanted to be his best friend. Yikes! The problem comes in when people don’t change their monitor’s default password and makes it visible to the WiFi network, making it so that any hacker can scan for transmitting IP’s and gain access and control over these devices. So parents, make sure that whichever baby monitor you decide to get, that it is invisible to WiFi scans and that you change the default password to a random sequence of numbers, characters and letters.


5. Smart Cameras:

Just like baby monitors, smart cameras that connect to a WiFi network are just as easily hacked, giving predators remote access to your video and audio feeds which criminals can use to spy on your comings and goings. The best way to prevent these types of hacks is to ensure that your devices’ software is up to date and to keep a keen eye on which devices are connected to your network.


For more information on how to protect yourself online, check out YEO’s Top Tips For Protecting Your Personal Data.