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Could 2016 see the first cyber attacks on wearables?

tech Updated: Nov 13, 2015 11:52 IST

Will wearables come under cyber attack in 2016?(AFP/Shutterstock)

Intel’s annual McAfee Labs Threat Predictions Report forecasts that Ransomware, in-car infotainment systems and even smartwatches could be at the top of hackers’ and cyber criminals’ lists in the coming year.

When a tech device starts growing in popularity, so does its appeal to the more nefarious of web users. And, with 2015 finally becoming the year of the smartwatch, thanks to new products from everyone from Apple to Tag Heuer, it’s very likely, according to Intel, that 2016 will be the year that cyber criminals start testing wearables for vulnerabilities.

Although they contain little if any personal data -- most smartwatches offer just 4GB of storage -- they could be the way into accessing the smartphone or tablet that is tied to it via an app.

But before panic sets in, Intel concedes that it’s still very early days and that such devices and the Internet of Things more generally won’t start seeing substantial threats until the end of the decade.

Looking five years into the future is essential for combating cyber threats.

“The best hockey players navigate within the ice rink, grapple with opposing players, take advantage of opportunities when available, and, critically, as Wayne Gretzky said, always skate to where the puck is going to be -- not where it has been,” said Vincent Weafer, vice president of Intel Security’s McAfee Labs.

The increasingly connected car is also going to be increasingly attractive as a target. Intel says that’s why security researchers will be focused on finding holes and exploits first and on working with car companies to beef up security and reduce risks.

However, one threat that is much more difficult to defend against is ransomware. A form of malware that, once installed on a computer, locks its owner out via encryption until a ransom for the passcode is paid, ransomware is proving to be a perfect crime. So much so that it’s increasingly being offered as an off-the-shelf service to aspiring cyber criminals.

The only way to protect a computer from ransomware is to make sure it is fully up to date in terms of virus protection and software patches, that suspicious attachments are avoided and that suspect websites or services are bypassed.

“Keeping pace with, anticipating and preempting adversaries requires that we match the intelligence exchange, cloud computing and delivery power, platform agility, and human resource assets that cybercriminals regularly leverage,” Weafer said.