Consumers Beware - Ignorance Isn't Bliss

Article date: Thu, 26 Jun 2014 11:06 GMT

Consumers Beware

Oblivious tech users are putting themselves at risk by ignoring how their personal information is being stored and the potential security risks that go hand in hand with digital devices - that's according to a panel of security experts at a round table debate in Manchester.

In light of the recent Heatbleed and Cyrptolocker vulnerabilities, security is at the forefront of everyone's mind. Or at least it should be. According to a group of security experts, the buzz of social media and the ever-evolving digital scene has created an ignorant culture of technology consumers.

The lack of risk awareness has concerned many in the security industry, including Hugh Boyes from the Institution of Engineering and Technology at the University of Warwick, who believes consumers need to realise exactly what their device is capable of, and precisely what information it holds.

He said: "People don't understand exactly what these devices can do. Take a fitness band, for example. The product isn't actually the wristband; it's the data that is inside it. Yet no one is aware of this.

"The internet is everywhere, and so in turn, we give our personal information out everywhere. Things like social media, loyalty cards and GPS tracking for instance - these things all require our personal information. No one hesitates in giving it away if it means being able to use a particular app."

Robert Fuller, director of Innevate believes ignorance is down to a culture problem because most people are convenience driven.

He said: "We are in a convenience society, where everyone's expectations think things happen with the click of a finger. We don't actually think about the intricacy around the processes.

"Because things often seem to happen seamlessly, it doesn't let itself to people having to think about what processes are involved."

Lawrence Jones, CEO of hosting and colocation firm UKFast agrees.

He said: "People are obsessed with speed and usability - the faster and easier they can achieve something, the better. Even if that means storing your card details, passwords and personal details in the same place or using the same password for everything. It may be more convenient but it's significantly less secure."

Timothy Ny, director at Scryla believes it's all a matter of perception, and the easier a product is, the less likely the consumer feels they need to know about security.

He said: "It's all down to perception. If a product is complex, then people don't want it. That's why everything is so easy - it's to attract people. Unfortunately it seems to be these people that don't care about whether or not Heartbleed is fundamental, and if it's going to affect them."

Zain Hyed, director of security at Hybrid believes if consumers understood the risks, they would take greater care when dishing out their personal details.

He said: "After all the Heartbleed media coverage, only 4 in 10 people actually changed their passwords. You'd expect everyone to change their passwords just to make sure they were secure, but unfortunately that wasn't the case. It's the culture we are living in today - no one understands the dangers.

"A lot of people are using these devices but not understanding the risks. They don't know where their data is going. This needs to change."

The digital technology experts gathered at a round table debate held by hosting and cloud firm UKFast in its Manchester office.

Here are their top tips for staying secure:

• Make sure that you install all patch updates and keep your software up to date.

• Have different passwords for each account, then if hackers get old of one password, they can't access every one of your accounts.

• Numbers/symbols and full phrase passwords are most effective - the longer the better.

• Read the news - find out who's been hacked and what you need to do about it.

• Find out where your data is stored and how safely before trusting them with your information. Would you leave a photocopy of your passport or bank statement in the street for anyone to find?

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