Avast has a long history of showing up at Mobile World Congress and pointing out just how insecure the show’s technologically sophisticated attendees are. A few years ago, it tricked users into signing onto unsecured Wi-Fi networks.
This is a tough area to be in right now. About 46 percent of the homes in the US have at least one vulnerable device, and IoT manufacturers simply don’t have the expertise to build secure systems, according to Avast’s Technical Director Filip Chytrý.
“Nest and Alexa, those guys are doing it pretty well,” Chytrý says. “But there are thousands of others that are not doing anything.”
This level of threat extends to more traditional hardware as well. “I have seen brand new printers on the market that are not using HTTPS to connect so that people can see anything,” Chytrý says.
Users themselves are still part of the problem. Whether it’s using weak passwords or connecting to insecure networks, poor choices abound. Connecting to unsecured networks comes with two levels of threats. First, the network operator can see a log of all of the other Wi-Fi networks you connected to recently. “Hotels use this kind of information all the time to create profiles of users,” Chytrý says.
But there is another, more insidious risk: being redirected to fake websites. You try to open Facebook and are sent to a fake server, which launches a man-in-the-middle attack. “You are filling out your details into the rogue website,” Chytrý says.
How does Chytrý protect his systems? Obviously, Avast products play a role, but he has soured on password managers recently.
“I don’t trust the password managers anymore, some of them have leaked their databases in the last few years,” he says. Instead, Chytrý has a system of 10 different passwords with varying levels of security, though all are 16 symbols long. He also uses encryption to protect all of his systems, including a special password for controlling access to his BIOS operations.
In the end, users need to pay more attention to all of the products in their homes. Of course, Avast makes products that will do that for you. In fact, later this year the company will launch it own standalone security appliance. “Your digital life is as secure as the weakest part of it,” Chytrý says.
Watch the video of our full conversation above. And check out back episodes of Fast Forward online or subscribe on Apple Podcasts.