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Is Our Smart Future Safe? Findings and Advices from the 2016 Norton Consumer Survey

In February 2016, Norton released findings from a survey of more than 5,000 consumers from five different countries around the world about their fears of the connected world. The respondents include two types of people:

  • People who understand risks when using smartphones and IoT
  • People who don’t understand smartphones and IoT devices could come with risks

The survey was conducted online in February 2016. To participate in the survey, the consumers must be at least 18 years old. Numbers of respondents from different countries are:

  • 1,016 from Japan
  • 1,007 from the United States
  • 1,000 from UK
  • 1,031 from Australia
  • 1,007 from Canada

The survey defines the device that can be connected to the network as “IoT device”. It includes: baby monitor, automobile, fitness tracker, smart watch, smart lock, security camera, smart light bulb and other smart appliances (e.g. smart TV, air conditioning). The survey is to investigate whether people feel anxious when using these devices.

For the question “whether you are managing and operating the IoT devices?”, the average of the five countries is 56%. For each country:

  • Japan – 42%
  • The United States and Canada – 60%
  • UK – 53%
  • Australia – 63%

For the question “do you think it’s safe to use the smart lock?”. Japan is the most anxious country, with 70% feels “it is not safe”, 18% “do not know”, and only 12% feels “it is safe”. Results from all five countries are shown in the graph below:

survey_results

The company pointed out that the smartphone is the command centre in the IoT world. Through smartphones, people are possible to control and operate home appliances and home security system. Therefore, we need to pay attention to the smartphone application security. Norton scanned about 25 million applications from more than 90 app stores and had found 9 million malicious applications. Norton warned that this is a significant risk factor of IoT.

Norton provides some recommendations to protect your mobile devices and IoT devices.

Protecting Mobile Devices

  • Use a reputable mobile security app. Norton Mobile Security pre-scans apps and identifies potential vulnerabilities before downloading an app. You should know what you’re downloading before it gets on your device.
  • Download apps from official app stores. Third-party app stores may not put apps through the same rigour as official app stores such as the Google Play Store or Apple’s App Store.
  • Be mindful of your app settings. Beware of apps that ask you to disable settings that protect you from installing unsecure apps. This makes your device more vulnerable and opens you to attacks.

Protecting IoT Devices

  • Keep your device current. Make sure you install the latest updates on your device, whether automatically or when sent from the manufacturer.
  • Protect your device. Set strong and unique passwords on these devices. Use a combination of at least eight letters, numbers and symbols.
  • Be stingy with your device. Protect the communication shared between your device and network by using encrypted communication on your home Wi-Fi (like WPA2) to connect the device. Better yet, use a hard-coded network connection, such as a LAN connection. If you have a feature on your device, you don’t use, turn it off.

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