Over a Third of Smart Device Owners Do Not Take Security Measures

More than a third (35%) of connected device owners in the UK do not take additional security measures to protect their smart home devices and rely solely on inbuilt security features.

This is according to findings from the 2021 Norton Cyber Safety Insights Report: Special Release – Home & Safety, which examined consumers’ at-home online behaviors.

The UK portion of the study revealed a worrying lack of security hygiene for smart devices among British consumers. Only 37% of connected device owners deny permissions to apps on their devices, while just a third (33%) install cybersecurity software. An even lower proportion said they change the default passwords on devices (32%) or regularly update device passwords (30%). Additionally, only 31% of people who own a Wi-Fi router change their router password more than once a year, with 42% admitting they have never changed the password or are not sure how often the password is changed.

More encouragingly, 86% of Brits who own a connected device said they would take action if one of their devices were hacked. The most common of these actions are changing security settings or passwords (53%).

The research, based on an online survey of more than 1000 UK adults by The Harris Poll, found that 71% of UK adults own a smart home device, with smart TVs (52%) and smart speakers/home assistants (33%) the most common types. While many find these devices to be helpful (41%) and convenient (36%), a significant proportion described them as a security risk (24%) and intrusive (22%). Some even said they are not trustworthy (15%), creepy (12%) or scary (8%).

The study also highlighted how the increase in screen time during the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted many consumers’ physical (52%) and mental health (41%), in addition to making them more vulnerable to online harms.  

Sarah Uhlfelder, senior strategic director EMEA at NortonLifeLock, commented: “With Brits admitting to spending 5.5 hours a day looking at screens on top of the time they spend on devices for school or work purposes, it’s inevitable that excessive screen time is making many feel burnt out.

“Make no mistake, technology can and does bring a number of social and educational benefits and, over the past year, we even saw it become a lifeline for many. In the UK, one in five adults (21%) purchased a new smart home or connected device to help them and their family cope with the pandemic as lockdowns increased limitations to our social life and it's somewhat virtualized. But, in an increasingly virtual world, adopting healthy screen time routines and digital safety habits is a vital part of daily life.

“Beyond setting boundaries for device usage and screen time limits, people need to be wary of the risks they might be facing online, too. Being mindful of what you reveal about yourself online and exercising caution around potential scams, fraudulent sites or apps, paired with good password hygiene and device protection from multi-layered security software, can go a long way in helping to keep you and your family safe online.”  

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