We’re living in a connected world. We bank online, we stay in touch with family and friends via social media, and we are even connecting our homes these days.
Smart homes promise all sorts of benefits to consumers, from energy efficiency and control, to entertainment and even improved home security. Through the Internet of Things (IoT), devices in the home, such as appliances, sensors and cameras can talk to the Internet and to each other, and be controlled through a single system for maximum convenience.
However, the more connected a home is, the more vulnerable it is to cyber attacks, as the potential attack surface now covers a multitude of devices and appliances, says Simon Campbell-Young from MyCyberCare, a cyber insurance business.
“The vast majority of people today have home networks, and connect their devices and appliances to the Internet. And we’re not just talking about personal computers, tablets and smartphones. We’re talking about entertainment systems, thermostats, door locks, lighting and much more,” he explains.
“This is why connected consumers need cyber insurance,” says Campbell-Young. “Cyberattacks on home systems and smart appliances might still be still relatively uncommon, but this won’t last. The growing connectivity of devices offers hackers and cyber thieves a slew of new opportunities and vulnerabilities to exploit.”
Cyber crooks are continually on the lookout for new targets, he explains, and home appliances like TVs, fridges and lighting systems just weren’t designed with security in mind. “Vendors are more concerned about functionality and ease of use, and unfortunately too often have been willing to sacrifice security in the process.”
To make matters worse, too many individuals don’t have even basic security tools and solutions in place to mitigate any risk. Nor do they have strong passwords as these are often too difficult to remember, he adds.
He also says to remember that not all consumers assume the same risks. “Consumers should ask themselves whether or not they handle valuable financial data or intellectual property, and if this information is stored on their home devices. Any high-level executive who can access proprietary company data on their home machine could be a target. A clever hacker could also target these individuals as a means to breach the company network, or even as a stepping stone to breach a third-party partner.”
Similarly, people should take stock of their personal assets. “Wealthy individuals with millions of Rands would find an extra small premium to be negligible, and definitely worth the expense. They would be more attractive targets. However, most of us can’t afford to have our bank accounts cleaned out by cyber criminals, and a small premium could save someone from losing all of their money.”
Insurance companies are waking up to the risks out there and offering cyber protection as an add-on to policies for homeowners and consumers. “These policies will protect any individual who operates a home computer or other device, stores information electronically, and accesses that information online – that’s pretty much all of us. Coverage should include loss of funds reimbursement and some policies will also include coverage for ransomware, in the event an individual is being extorted,” Campbell-Young concludes.
By Simon Campbell-Young from MyCyberCare