smart home circuit

Smart devices pose an increasing risk to consumers, National Trading Standards warns

Image credit: dt

Household smart devices such as TVs and voice-activated home assistants are posing an increasing threat to consumers because they can be hijacked by cyber criminals, the National Trading Standards (NTS) agency has warned.

It said that consumers needed to “remain vigilant” as criminals exploit new trends and technology, warning that connected gadgets could leave households open to data theft. Potential threats are likely to include viruses and data protection issues.

The danger that security flaws pose was made painfully clear in October last year. Devices from home routers to connected thermostats and toasters were used in a huge cyber-attack that disrupted many websites, including Twitter, Netflix, Reddit and Spotify.

The hackers launched a distributed denial of service attack (DDoS) on the servers of the web technology provider Dyn, a major DNS (domain name system) host – in other words, a web ‘reference book’ that directs users to the internet address where the site is stored.

Consumers should also be alert to continued manipulation of online ticket sites, the risk of product safety issues with items bought via social media sites and the increasing sophistication of doorstep criminals who use websites, social media and fake reviews, the NTS annual report said.

NTS prevented almost £127m in losses to consumers and businesses over the last year and secured a record 104 criminal convictions, the report’s figures show.

Meanwhile, ports and borders teams prevented almost 550,000 unsafe items entering the country over the last year, an increase of more than 20 per cent on the previous year.

Mike Andrews from the NTS eCrime Team said: “Our increased connectivity is a good thing; the opportunities for digital breakthroughs in this space could improve our lives immensely, such as connected devices that transform how we monitor our own health to smart devices that improve how we prepare meals.

“This continued progress should not be halted, but as criminals are increasingly finding new methods to target consumers, steps will need to be taken to help protect people in their homes.”

Chief Constable Peter Goodman of Derbyshire Constabulary, the National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for cyber-crime, has said digital crime was now the “biggest single crime category” faced by police.

He said police forces need to do more to face the increasing threat of cyber-crime, and that criminals had “woken up” to the huge profits that stood to be made from turning to online crime.

“We now know that organised criminality has now woken up to the potential profit that there is out there in cyber-crime,” he said.

“It is much less risky to go through the back door of a bank and siphon off cash than it is to go through the front door with a sawn-off shotgun.

“The chances of getting caught are a lot less and the amount of money they can make is an awful lot more.”

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