You’ve probably accumulated quite a few connected devices over the years. It started with PCs and laptops, and then moved to smartphones, gaming consoles and printers, and now you’re adding security cameras, voice assistants, smart thermostats and, believe it or not, even smart toasters! Cisco projects the average home will have 13.6 networked devices by 2022.1 Welcome to the “connected home.”
When the COVID-19 pandemic started, many of us experienced how our connected homes have digitized almost every aspect of our world. We couldn’t send our kids to school or go to the office (not to mention movie theaters, restaurants, exercise classes, or even the doctor’s office), but connected devices digitized those experiences so we could carry on with our lives. Mom would be in one room doing a videoconference, while her daughter would be in another room taking an online algebra class, and her son was ordering a pizza delivery using a smart speaker.
What many people don’t realize is that connected devices can also pose a security risk. Cyber criminals target them because many have little or no security protections (unlike your laptop), they are often left unattended and some of them don’t even have screens — which means they can be more easily hacked without you even knowing it.
Bad actors attacking your connected devices could be trying to spy on your household through a camera, or to add the computing power of one of your devices to their army of co-opted computers (called “botnets”), or even to use a connected device as an “on-ramp” onto your home network, where they could potentially attack other devices and steal your identity information to commit fraud.
The risk to connected homes is expanding: 61% of consumers plan to buy at least one connected-home device this holiday season, according to our survey for this report. In my role as Chief Product and Information Security Officer at Comcast, I have all-too-clear an understanding of how pervasive these threats are and why it is so critical to block them proactively. Our xFi Advanced Security service blocked 6 billion cybersecurity threats in our customers’ homes between January and August this year, or about 104 cyberthreats per household each month. And during the early part of the pandemic, threats increased 12% as hackers looked to take advantage of the increase in online activity in connected homes.