People in Singapore shifting towards smart and secure devices

People in Singapore shifting towards smart and secure devices

The public’s appetite for secure Internet-connected devices is strong, with half of adults in Singapore saying they will consider buying such gadgets under a new labelling scheme.

 

This was what a survey found even as nearly seven in 10 respondents here said they were not aware of the Cyber Security Agency of Singapore’s (CSA) relatively new Cybersecurity Labelling Scheme for Internet of Things (IoT) devices such as Wi-Fi routers and Internet Protocol (IP) cameras.

The voluntary scheme, launched more than six months ago, informs consumers about how secure Internet-connected devices are against cyber-security threats.

Nearly three in five people were also not aware of past IoT breaches in Singapore, such as a report in October that home IP cameras here were hacked and the footage uploaded onto pornographic websites, according to the poll, which ended early last month.

Cyber-security firm McAfee, which commissioned the survey of about 1,000 adults in Singapore, told The Straits Times that having half the population consider products under CSA’s labelling scheme “is an achievement and speaks to Singaporean tech-savviness”.

But being used to giving their personal data online could also mean that many people underestimate the risks of buying unsecured IoT devices, or do not appreciate the dangers of a security breach, said McAfee. The limited number of CSA-labelled devices – 12 to date – might also be a factor.

But as more device makers join the scheme in future, and as people have more time to understand the security concerns, more consumers could go for labelled IoT devices later, said the company.

This is amid mounting concerns that hackers will increasingly target IoT devices. McAfee noted that with the rapid surge in unsecured IoT devices with work and study from home due to the pandemic, these gadgets have become an easy target for hackers. The firm found that the number of new IoT malware grew globally by 58 per cent from the fourth quarter of 2019 to the first quarter of last year. Beyond hacked IP cameras, other threats include crooks hacking home routers to access data that victims send over the Internet, said McAfee.

To mitigate some of these risks, CSA in October launched the labelling scheme to help consumers better judge how exposed the devices they buy are to cyber risks. The products labelled so far include Wi-Fi routers, smart switches, smart lights and smart home hubs, from Aztech, BroadLink, HomeAuto Solutions, Prolink and Signify.

Major router brands such as D-Link, Linksys, TP-Link, Asus and Netgear do not have their products labelled yet. Printer brands, including Canon, HP and Epson, are also missing.

When contacted, many brands either declined to comment or could not reply by press time. But one industry player that declined to be named said one problem is that time is needed to prepare products for labelling, with Covid-19 delaying processes.

Other challenges include costs and approvals needed. Linksys said the routers it sells will comply with CSA’s scheme, in line with the Infocomm Media Development Authority’s (IMDA) timeline for security requirements for new home routers, such as using unique log-in passwords.

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