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Norton Research raises concerns over threats to smart devices

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Recent global research from Norton by Symantec reveals one-third of UAE consumers have smart home devices, and an overwhelming majority of them (86 percent) find they simplify their life. However, while they welcome the added convenience Internet-connected thermostats, TVs, gaming consoles and baby monitors offer, consumers’ lax security habits and overconfidence in connected devices are leaving them vulnerable.

The research by Symantec found that an unsecured Internet of Things (IoT) device is attacked within two minutes once connected to the Internet. According to the Norton Cyber Security Insights Report, a survey of nearly 21,000 consumers globally, including 883 in the UAE, people are beginning to recognise that with each connected device purchase, a new avenue opens for hackers to launch attacks in their home.

One in two (50 percent) believe that as connected home devices become more popular, hackers will start targeting them more often. More than half (55 percent) believe it’s more likely someone could gain unauthorised access to their connected home device than to their physical home. A whopping 64 percent believe connected home devices provide hackers new ways to steal their personal information

Yet despite acknowledging the security risks that come with the smart home, device vulnerabilities and poor consumer security habits are increasingly acting as an easy on-ramp for hackers to access them.

One in 10 connected home device users in the UAE don’t have any protective measures in place for their devices. One in six (18 percent) admit their Wi-Fi network is not password protected. One in five (19 percent) do not change the default password when setting up their Wi-Fi network. Half (49 percent) admit they don’t know how to set-up a secure home Wi-Fi network or router and more than half don’t know how to keep its software up-to-date (70 percent). More than half (58 percent) of consumers surveyed don’t believe there are enough connected device users for them to be a worthwhile target for hackers. Further, more than two-thirds (68 percent) of consumers said they believe connected home devices were designed with online security in mind. However, Symantec researchers identified security vulnerabilities in 50 different connected home devices ranging from smart thermostats to smart hubs that could make the devices easy targets for attacks.

“There have been an array of high-profile attacks in recent months demonstrating how cybercriminals are taking advantage of poor device security to hijack consumers’ home networks, spread malware and launch botnet attacks unbeknownst to their device owners,” said Tamim Taufiq, Head of Norton Middle East. “While smart devices may offer some notable benefits and convenience, there are also risks associated. Just as hackers learned to benefit from targeting social media and financial accounts, they are on their way to learning how access to connected home devices can be lucrative.”

Symantec recommends some tips on how to keep home networks and connected devices safe:
• Review/research the reputation, capabilities and security features of a smart device before purchase.
• Set-up and/or change the default login and password information on your router and all the devices connected to your home network. Most importantly, always use strong and unique passwords for your router, smart devices and your Wi-Fi network(s).
• Use a strong encryption method when setting up Wi-Fi network access (WPA).
• Consider disabling features and services you do not use or are not required.
• Modify the default privacy and security settings of your smart devices according to your needs.
• Consider turning off or disabling your smart devices and home network when not in use.
• Review the settings of voice-activated features and commands for potential privacy risks and change them according to your needs.
• Disable Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) on routers unless absolutely necessary.
• Consider using wired connections instead of a Wi-Fi connection where possible.
• Regularly check manufacturers’ websites for software updates and patches.
• Exercise caution when sharing sensitive information, such as your Wi-Fi password, with others. Consider setting up a specific network for guest use.
• Don’t use your real name when “naming” your device and Wi-Fi network.
• Consider the hidden costs of “free” services and products.
• Use security software if it is available.

Recent incidents involving home-connected devices include the massive Mirai botnet cyberattack in October 2016 from common smart household items, which took major websites down across the globe. There was also an attack that allowed anyone on the internet to watch live footage of thousands of home webcams and baby monitors, as well as cases where people modified the thermostat of their ex-spouse or disabled security locks. There have also been reports of people taking control of home automation systems belonging to others.

The US Federal Trade Commission settled a case against a firm that makes Internet-enabled security cameras and baby monitors. The FTC said that the cameras had been marketed as secure when, in fact, “the cameras had faulty software that left them open to online viewing, and in some instances listening, by anyone with the cameras’ Internet address,” the FTC said. “As a result of this failure, hundreds of consumers’ private camera feeds were made public on the Internet”.

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HID Recognized for Its Design Expertise as Bahrain’s ePassport Wins Multiple Prestigious Awards

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HID has recently achieved global recognition for its Bahrain ePassport project, clinching several top honors. These include the distinguished London Design Awards, the High Security Printing Award, and the iF Design Award. This suite of praises reinforces HID’s leadership in security design, showcasing its innovative approach to integrating cutting-edge security features with aesthetic and cultural elements.

Craig Sandness, Senior VP and Managing Director for Citizen Identity at HID, shares, “Our design philosophy is centered around seamlessly weaving security into the fabric of the document’s design. The Bahrain ePassport is a prime example of this approach, where innovation meets artistry. This is not just our success; it’s a shared victory with our Bahraini partners, local artists, and calligraphers. Together, we’ve crafted a document that is as secure as it is symbolic of Bahrain’s rich heritage.”

The Bahrain ePassport, celebrated for its innovative design, marks a milestone in document security by introducing the world’s first document-embedded hashtag, #teambahrain. This feature is more than a nod to digital savviness; it’s a strong symbol of national unity and a testament to HID’s ability to integrate modern digital elements with traditional security measures.

HID’s work on the Bahrain ePassport has been recognized across several categories in the London Design Awards, including Gold awards in Service Design for Government, Cultural, and Best User Experience categories, underscoring the project’s excellence in functionality, cultural sensitivity, and user engagement. The High Security Printing Award for Best New ePassport for EMEA and the iF Design Award in the Publications and Communications category further validate HID’s skill in creating secure, user-centered design.

The collaboration between HID, Bahraini authorities, and local artisans highlights HID’s commitment to incorporating local culture into its security designs. This partnership approach not only enriches the document’s aesthetic appeal but also enhances its acceptance and significance among citizens, demonstrating HID’s leadership in creating identity solutions that respect and celebrate cultural heritage.

“As we celebrate the one-year anniversary of the Bahrain ePassport, we look forward to continuing our journey of innovation,” adds Sandness. “We invite governments and organizations worldwide to join us in this journey of creating secure, innovative solutions that pave the way for the future of identity documentation.”

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Fitness First Marks Mother’s Day with Four Days of Free Access

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As Mother’s Day approaches, Fitness First is proud to honour and celebrate all mothers with a special gift of health and wellness. From 21 to 24 March, Fitness First invites all mums to enjoy complimentary access to its state-of-the-art facilities at any of its UAE-based clubs.

Recognising the invaluable role of mothers in our lives, Fitness First is opening its doors to mothers of all ages and fitness levels, offering them the opportunity to prioritise their well-being and embark on a journey to better health. Whether it’s a rejuvenating yoga session, an invigorating cardio workout, or a strength training class, Fitness First provides a wide range of fitness options tailored to meet the diverse needs and preferences of every mother.

In addition to offering access to top-notch gym facilities and equipment, mums visiting Fitness First during this special period will also have the opportunity to participate in group fitness classes led by certified instructors, and connect with other like-minded individuals in a supportive and motivating environment.

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Visa-free countries for UAE residents looking to book last-minute getaways this spring term break

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As UAE schools gear up for the upcoming spring term break starting from 25 March, residents are planning for their well-deserved getaways, ready to embark on new adventures and explore the world. Global travel marketplace, Skyscanner recommends these visa-free travel destinations for UAE residents this spring term break.

Ayoub El Mamoun, Skyscanner Travel Expert, invites families and adventure seekers alike to explore these captivating visa-free destinations

Seychelles starting from AED 2,711 – “A tropical haven with pristine beaches and lush greenery, Seychelles is perfect for family retreats. Explore Anse Lazio’s white sands or snorkel in vibrant coral reefs for a blissful escape.”

Georgia starting from AED 1,703– “Steeped in rich history, Georgia welcomes UAE residents to explore ancient monasteries, stunning landscapes, and vibrant cities. Georgia is becoming a regular tourist haunt for UAE residents given the sudden influx of Georgia tour packages and the family activities to be experienced.”

Jordan starting from AED 1,752 – “A treasure trove of ancient history and natural wonders, Jordan is a captivating family destination. From the rose-red city of Petra to floating in the mineral-rich waters of the Dead Sea, Jordan promises a timeless family adventure.”

Malaysia starting from AED 1,903 – “A melting pot of cultures and landscapes, Malaysia invites families to explore bustling Kuala Lumpur, beautiful Langkawi beaches, and vibrant neighborhoods in Georgetown. Trek lush rainforests in Taman Negara or dive into the colourful underwater world of the Perhentian Islands. Try Skyscanner’s multi-city search too to explore all that Malaysia has to offer.”

For travellers still deciding on a destination to visit this upcoming break, a Skyscanner ‘Everywhere’ search is one of the easiest ways to be inspired. Ordered by cheapest price, a search to ‘Everywhere’ shows travellers all the destinations available for your desired travel departure.

Skyscanner’s Everywhere search tool reveals return flights to visa-free destinations such as Thailand from AED 1,891, Philippines from AED 1,932, Azerbaijan from AED 1,634 and Malaysia from AED 1,976 round trip.

With the convenience of visa-free travel to various destinations, the options for an unforgettable getaway are endless. So pack your bags, book your tickets, and get ready for a stress-free holiday.

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