Is a smart device on your Christmas wish list? Cyber centre is warning new tech users to stay safe



This Christmas, many will unwrap a smart device which promise to make lives easier. 

However, those hoping for one of the gadgets need to be careful as there is a possibility they could be hacked, a government body has warned.

Households with an Amazon Echo, Google Home or other smart devices need to be aware that they could be compromised, leaving personal data and privacy at risk, according to Action Fraud.

The fear of having data stolen is already an obstacle to the market – a quarter say privacy concerns are one reason for not getting a smart device, according to a study by Pricewaterhousecooper. 

Connected: Amazon Echo are some of the most popular smart devices currently on the market in the UK

Connected: Amazon Echo are some of the most popular smart devices currently on the market in the UK

However, those worried about being affected by a potential hack can take steps to protect themselves from criminals. 

This is Money, with help from the National Cyber Security Centre, can reveal what you can do to prevent your smart device being compromised.

1. Have a secure password: If you are prompted to enter a password on your device at any time and it comes set up with one that is easy to guess, such as 0000 or admin, then ensure you change it immediately. 

Make sure it is a more complex password that you haven’t used for any other device. 

While birth dates are easy to remember, this information could easily be gained by criminals so try and use something different and unique that would be hard to guess. 

2. Enable extra security: For added security, if your device or app associated with the device offers two factor authentication, you should enable it.

This adds a second layer of protection and is particularly important if your account contains personal or sensitive information.

3. Consider what features you actually need: Many smart devices now will allow you to access a gadget in your home remotely via your homes Wi-Fi network, for example, to view security camera footage. 

Consider whether it is imperative that you use this feature as this could leave you open to further compromise.

4. Update your gadgets: Keep your devices updated as this will help keep them more secure with the latest security protections.

Fitbit Versa 2 smartwatches are the newest of the model on the market & now include Fitbit Pay

Fitbit Versa 2 smartwatches are the newest of the model on the market & now include Fitbit Pay

5. Contact the experts if anything happens: If you do become aware of an incident where you think you have been hacked or your device has been compromised, visit the manufacturer’s website to see if there is any information on what to do next. 

Check the NCSC and Information Commissioner’s Office to see published guidance.

6. Getting rid of your device: If you decide to sell, or give your device to someone else, you should first perform a factory reset.

This will return the device to its original settings, and should also remove all your personal data from the device. 

Check your manufacturer’s website if you need to find out how to perform a reset.

However, despite Action Fraud’s warning, it revealed that it had not received many reports of UK gadget owners devices being hacked. 

Popular smart devices  

There are now more smart devices on the market than ever with options ranging from smart light bulbs to doorbells to locks. 

Below are some of the gadgets that are likely to be the most popular presents this Christmas.  

Nest thermostat (£219): Nest’s third generation learning thermostat learns the temperature you like your home at certain times of day.

It will then set the heating to this temperature without you having to manually change it yourself which it says helps to save energy as it only uses the energy it needs. It will also tell you how much energy you have saved each week on the app.

One benefit is that the thermostat is weather responsive, meaning it checks the weather forecast or temperature outside and adjusts your home heating to account for this. 

Fitbit Versa 2 (£199): The newest Fitbit model not only monitors your fitness but it also has Amazon Alexa built in meaning customers can check the weather, set timers and alarms and control their smart home devices. 

It also now has Fitbit pay installed so users don’t have to take a wallet out with them and can pay using their watch. 

Amazon Echo Dot 3 Third Generation (£34.99): The popular smart speaker comes equipped with Amazon Alexa and allows customers to voice control their music. 

Users can also control their smart home through the device including turning on lights and adjusting thermostats with compatible connected devices. 

Ring Video Doorbell 2 (£179): The video doorbell means owners are able to see who is outside their home even when they aren’t home. 

It comes with instant mobile alerts and two-way talk meaning you can speak to callers and answer the door from your smartphone, tablet and PC. 

 

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