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Easy-to-hack smart devices targeted by government

Security measures to be put in place to make internet-connected products safer and help prevent cyber attacks

The government is calling on makers of internet-connected products to ensure that measures to safeguard security and privacy are embedded into their design rather than being left as an afterthought, following a number of reports about devices that are easily hackable.

From toys to televisions, and coffee machines to wireless security cameras, household gadgets are increasingly becoming ‘smart’. This trend, sometimes referred to as the ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT), can bring great benefits. But if the products aren’t secure, it can also threaten our online security, privacy and even safety. 

Which? Consumer Rights – find out your rights when things go wrong.

The average UK household is estimated to currently own 10 internet-connected devices, but that’s expected to increase to 15 by 2020. At that stage there will be more than 420 million IoT gadgets buzzing away in our homes.

Over the last four years, Which? has exposed various flaws with consumer devices, including smart thermostatsconnected toys and internet routers. We even set up an entire home with smart gadgets and security researchers took just days to hack it – for more on this watch our video above.

Poorly secured products could lead you to become a target for cyber criminals, whether they are plundering your personal data, hijacking thousands of devices to become giant botnets, or using them to take down websites or mine for crypto-currency.

Make it ‘secure by design’

Created in collaboration with the industry and Which?, the government’s new Secure by Design review lays out a code of practice for makers of connected devices and their associated services.

This encourages firms to take security seriously, with measures including:

  • setting default passwords on devices that are unique and hard for hackers to crack
  • making sure all sensitive information about you is transmitted securely using encryption
  • ensuring you can delete any personal data on connected products if you want to sell them.

In addition, the government is exploring the possibility of a product-labelling scheme for consumer products that would make consumers aware of the security safeguards.

Margot James, Minister for Digital and the Creative Industries, said: “We want everyone to benefit from the huge potential of internet-connected devices and it is important they are safe and have a positive impact on people’s lives.

“We have worked alongside industry to develop a tough new set of rules so strong security measures are built into everyday technology from the moment it is developed.

“This will help ensure that we have the right rules and frameworks in place to protect individuals and that the UK continues to be a world-leading, innovation-friendly digital economy.”

Responding to the government’s announcement, Which? managing director of home products and services, Alex Neill, said: ‘Connected devices are becoming increasingly common in people’s homes, but despite the significant benefits these products can bring, it’s vital that they are designed to keep consumers safe.

‘Manufacturers have a responsibility to ensure that smart devices are secure before they are bought, and we expect them to follow these new measures in order to properly safeguard customers from cyber threats.’

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