Christmas tech gadgets increase household cyber risks

Christmas smartphone worker

Many people will be receiving new tech gadgets over the Christmas period, including smartphones, gaming consoles, tablets, connected toys, and a whole range of apps to go with them.

But new research from from cybersecurity training organization the SANS Institute finds that while people are aware of the risks these devices can pose, they may not have the skills to properly protect them.

The study of 1000 parents and 1000 students aged 14-18 in the UK finds 72 percent of parents and 68 percent of students see the biggest cybersecurity risk to their family as the theft of their personal information.

Only 26.7 percent of students who own or have access to a tablet, rate the device as 'very secure.' Of that group, 69 percent believe their tablets are secure because they have anti-virus software installed. But AV software alone isn't enough, educating young people and adults alike in how to spot a phishing email or a suspicious website is also critical.

41 percent of students who believe their devices are insecure say this was a result of never reading privacy policies in full or never checking the security of the apps they download (52 percent).

There's also an education issue, 46 percent of students who have heard of cybersecurity, say they heard about it from their parent or guardian. However, only 28 percent of parents who have heard of cybersecurity say that they themselves are 'very aware' of it. If parents are not confident about their knowledge or aware of the potential risks that come with connected devices, then chances are that their teenagers may not be practicing good security hygiene either. What's more, only 39 percent of parents who believe that the devices their children own or have access to are secure, report that they regularly check them.

"People mistakenly believe they are not a target for cyber attackers. But the truth is, if you use technology in any way, you have value to hackers," says James Lyne, head of research and development at the SANS Institute. "It's fair to say that many young people are now more digitally literate than their parents, so we’re encouraging the younger generations to take a more active role in their own cyber education – and maybe even that of their parents! Security is not just about protecting personal devices, though. It could ultimately be as important as helping to protect the country at large. This is why it's important to share knowledge and reinforce the right type of behaviors online so that we're not leaving ourselves exposed to the idle hands of hackers -- at Christmas, or otherwise."

You can see more of the findings in the infographic below.  SANS is delivering -- on behalf of the government -- a free Cyber Discovery program for 14-18 year-olds in the UK using games, challenges and role playing to teach the basics of cybersecurity in a safe and fun setting. Students have until January 7th to register and take part.

Xmas web risks infographic

Image credit: Kerkezz/depositphotos.com

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