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Thursday, 02 May 2019 11:59

Australians disregard security basics, vulnerable to hacking: report Featured

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Australians disregard security basics, vulnerable to hacking: report Image Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Australians are not doing enough to secure their connected devices, despite a slew of recent high-profile hacking incidents of smart devices, according to one security company.

According to Trend Micro, findings from its latest research into Australian approaches to smart homes and connected device security reveal that while Australians are looking to embrace smart home technology — with three-quarters (75%) of Aussies open to new technologies like self-driving cars and home-cleaning robots — “they’re letting themselves be out-smarted when it comes to securing these devices”.

“Despite a slew of recent high-profile hacking incidents of smart devices, such as baby monitors, hackable cardiac devices and even a Jeep SUV, 73% of Australians believe their connected devices are at least moderately secure," the company said.

“This is despite one-in-five (21%) not taking any security measures for these devices and more than half (52%) admitting they don’t check their home network for unknown or unwanted devices."

The research found that many Australians may not fully understand what a smart or connected device is, as more than three-quarter (76%) report they own only between one and five connected devices.

In comparison, Trend Micro says it recently found that the average Australian home now has 29 smart devices, “a stark contrast that hints that connected devices include more than just smart lightbulbs or elaborate fridges”.

“We keep hearing about the rise of the Internet of Things and the smart home but many Australians may not realise that it’s already here and is only set to grow,” said Tim Falinski, senior director, Consumer, APAC, Trend Micro.

“What’s concerning is that many Australians assume these devices include adequate in-built security when they don’t, as we’ve seen a number of times when they’ve been hacked. What we’re seeing is that Australians are putting too much trust in smart devices and not necessarily applying some of their own ‘smarts’ to the process.”

According to the research, Australians top concerns around smart devices are that their personal information will be stolen (81%), their bank account will be hacked (70%) or that they will experience someone gaining control of their devices (51%). Over one-third (36%) also believe that someone could watch them, tapping into concerns from recent breaches of video-based devices.

The research reveals that router-based attacks are one of the most significant home network threats as they are targeted by cybercriminals for cryptocurrency mining and pharming attacks.

It’s also revealed that 42% of all router events detected by Trend Micro in 2018 were related to the Telnet default password login, “shining light on the fact that routers shouldn’t be overlooked as a crucial part of Internet connectivity and a key way to secure smart devices”.

Almost half (45.5%) of Trend Micro’s Home Network Security stations have blocked a threat in ANZ, indicating the prevalence of cyber attacks on Australian homes.

“Connected devices hold a lot of possibility for improving the lives of Australians as self-driving cars and other emerging tech start to hit the market, however they also are seen as a wealth of opportunity by cybercriminals looking for new ways to exploit devices,” says Falinski.

“As always, it’s important to understand that inbuilt security often isn’t as strong as you think, or may not even exist at all.

“We suggest Australians tap into their own smarts to protect their smart devices; be aware, look for additional security and always take the time to get the basics right – such as updating default passwords to be highly secure.”

The research also found that:

  • Australians continue to be lax when it comes password security:
    • One-in-five (21%) never change the password on their connected devices.
    • Almost half (45%) use the same password for multiple devices.
  • Australians are dropping the ball on security measures for their connected devices:
    • One-in-ten (11%) don’t use any measures to secure their smartphones (including passwords), in addition to the one-in-five who don’t take measures for their other smart devices.
  • Smart devices are common in the home:
    • Sixteen percent of Australians have a voice assistant (Alexa, Google Home etc);
    • One-in-ten (10%) use connected security cameras (home CCTV);
    • Eight percent own smart lightbulbs; and
    • Eleven percent own smart appliances, such as fridges or coffee machines.

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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham is a co-founder of iTWire and a 35-year veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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