Cybersecurity – not just for geeks – Abhijit Bhaduri

When it comes to cybersecurity, most of us are happy to announce our ignorance. Let’s put it this way. If you have used a mobile phone? Or a credit card? Or done an online transaction like booking tickets or buying stuff or even leaving a review for a restaurant that wowed you? Then this article is for you.

17 billion connected devices

The number of connected devices that are in use worldwide now exceeds 17 billion, with the number of IoT devices at 7 billion (that number does not include smartphones, tablets, laptops or fixed line phones). With each device of yours that is connected to the net, your exposure to cybercrime is increasing.

Protect the kids

Several children have smart watches, toys that send back your kids data to the internet. Recent research by McAfee has found that less than a quarter of people (23%) realize that wearable devices and connected toys for children need to have security protection. While your kid’s smart watches or phones can tell you their whereabouts, the same information can be accessed by cybercriminals. Make sure their toys are secure.

“Many parents have introduced wearables such as smart watches to their children’s lives, as they think it provides them with additional peace of mind about their whereabouts and safety. However, parents need to quickly realize whilst yes, these wearables have great benefits, unfortunately, they also have a number of security flaws leaving children vulnerable to cyber criminals hacking their devices.”

Online chats are often insecure

When children chat online, they often assume that the person at the other end is their age. They use acronyms and codes that parents do not understand. For example if the kid types 9 or 99, do you know what that means?

At the end of 2015, details about a massive security breach at VTech emerged. Hackers had broken into the toy manufacturer VTech’s servers and got information about more than six million children worldwide. The personal information included names, emails, passwords, download histories, and home addresses of parents, and the first names, genders, and birthdays of kids. The hackers got access to 190 GBs of kids photos from VTech’s Kid Connect app.

A wifi connected Barbie Doll can be turned into a surveillance device. Many of these toy manufacturers are not subjected to the stringent security of say, a financial product. So there are often glaring vulnerabilities in these toys.


Cyber criminals load malicious code onto retailers’ websites to steal shoppers’ credit card details, with 4,800+ unique websites compromised on average every month. According to the Feb 2019 Internet Security Report by Symantec, the British Airways formjacking was very profitable for cybercriminals.

“All it takes is 10 stolen credit cards per compromised website to result in a yield of up to $2.2M per month, as each card fetches up to $45 in underground selling forums. With more than 380,000 credit cards stolen, the British Airways attack alone may have netted criminals more than $17 million.”

3 quick tips to stay secure-

1.Avoid using the free public wifi

2. Keep Bluetooth disabled as much as possible while traveling.

3. Create a strong password with numerals and special characters

The writer is a coach to CXOs and an Indian advisor to organizations on issues of leadership. [Courtesy- ToI]