Cloud Pets: The Cuddly Cyber Security Risk
The CloudPets app consists of various soft toy animals that come with a speaker and a microphone installed within them.
These let children record messages, as well as playback messages their friends or family members have recorded since all these recordings are uploaded online through a Bluetooth-connected app.
What Happened With the Cloud Pets App
In 2017, more than two million voice messages that had been recorded on these Cloud pets cuddly toys were discovered in an open database. Besides the numerous voice messages of children and adults, the database included people’s email addresses, passwords, profile pictures, and even children’s names and names of authorized family members. Therefore, over 800,000 users’ personal information was compromised.
The database which contained all this information had no usernames or passwords to prevent someone from seeing all the data. What’s worse, soon enough a ransomware attack happened on the database: the hackers had deleted original databases leaving a ransom demand instead. Basically, the hackers locked the database until a certain amount of money was paid.
Since the CloudPets app is still online, the aforementioned recordings could be hacked again. Parents must be aware that there are possible security threats when using the app and change the password they’re using for the app. Always consider the circumstances before giving your child any internet-connected device, in order to avoid similar situations. Beware of the fact that your family data could be made public because of the system’s security vulnerabilities.
How To Avoid Ransomware Attacks
Below, we’re going to answer how to avoid ransomware attacks so that you don’t get involved in a situation similar to the one above. But first of all, let’s answer the following question: what exactly is ransomware?
Ransomware is a kind of malware that infects devices and can encrypt all your data or threaten to publish any sensitive data you own. It locks you out and disables you to use your device until you pay the ransom that was requested. To put it simply – the hacker figures out how to steal something of yours and asks for payment to return it.
There are different types of ransomware: one replaces your important documents with encrypted copies of them, another one blocks you from using your computer or mobile phone (though this one is less of a threat than the first one), and the worst type of ransomware encrypts your computer’s entire hard drive.
The virus is usually caught through infected PDF or Office documents that were sent to you through an email. The email usually seems legitimate, which tricks people. Do not click on any links about which you have even the slightest doubt.
Lately, ransomware is becoming more and more sophisticated, which only means that ransomware protection has to be top-quality. Modern antivirus software track down malicious behavior, and not only search for known threats.
There are antivirus providers and VPN services which will keep your devices and files completely safe. Read on to find out exactly which services we suggest for you to get for your home network so that you don’t become a victim of a ransomware attack.
Installing an antivirus program is a must. Antivirus software helps defend your devices against cybercriminals and malware. It monitors data (files, software, applications, and web pages) within your devices and looks for threats, signaling any suspicious behavior. It also blocks or removes malware.
Seeing as how new cyber threats are constantly emerging, antivirus protection is crucial nowadays. Without protective software, you are at risk of being targeted by viruses and other malicious software.
The antivirus we strongly suggest is McAfee. Keep on reading to find out why getting this antivirus is an important step in ransomware protection.
With more than 30 years of experience in the industry, McAfee is one of the biggest cyber protection companies worldwide. Its setup is very easy, and the program even minimizes itself and runs quietly in the background allowing you to get on with other tasks.
McAfee antivirus will protect all your devices, including laptops, computers, smartphones, tablets and more.
It can be pre-integrated in Wi-Fi routers and cable modems.
Naturally, you can choose between quick or full scans. Furthermore, App Boost is a feature that boosts performance and optimizes CPU, and the McAfee Web Advisor extension monitors and detects malicious sites or malware.
Other great features include internet pausing, device identification, real-time alerts on threats, and Global Threat Intelligence, the latter which constantly operates in the background and protects your Wi-Fi network.
You may opt for different packages. However, whether you choose a basic or a premium subscription, McAfee will provide you with all-round protection against cyber threats, though premium packages offer additional features, of course (for example, parental control apps, anti-spam security, and a password manager).
All of the packages have sophisticated firewall protection and McAfee’s Ransom Guard feature. This feature monitors any suspicious changes to the user’s files and advises the user what to check, as well as what to do in order to fight off the threat.
Moreover, McAfee’s official website states the following regarding ransomware prevention:
‘McAfee products leverage a number of technologies that help prevent ransomware. The following is a sampling of McAfee products that offer configurations designed to stop many types of ransomware.
- McAfee Endpoint Security keeps .DAT files up to date and leverages McAfee Global Threat Intelligence (McAfee GTI), which contains millions of sensors that monitor for unique ransomware signatures.
- McAfee Web Protection uses website reputations to prevent or warn users of websites where ransomware is distributed.
- McAfee Threat Intelligence Exchange employs policy configuration that can identify and tag suspect processes.
- McAfee Application Control offers a dual-layer defense of whitelisting technology and memory protection that can help prevent the execution of binaries coming from an untrusted source and block zero-day exploits.’
To find out more about McAfee read our in-depth review.
Virtual Private Networks
Whenever you go online, the location of your device can be logged. This information can then be used to dig out more information about you or your household.
Cybercriminals may access this information and monitor your internet activity, as well as gain access to your personal information (including financial data).
Using a VPN (Virtual Private Network) will help you conceal this information by encrypting your incoming and outgoing traffic. A VPN gives you a temporary IP address while hiding your actual address from every website you visit. This way, you’re ensured anonymity and safety online.
Two VPN services that we strongly recommend are ExpressVPN and Surfshark.
ExpressVPN is a great choice for people who are seeking to add security to their activity online since it provides military-grade encryption with over 3,000 servers in 94 countries. This amount of servers makes it extremely safe. What’s more, the company is based in the British Virgin Islands, placing them very far from the 5/9/14 eyes alliance and keeping its users away from surveillance.
What’s important is that they have a strict no-logs policy: this means that details of the IP address you connect to, your real IP address, your browsing history, etc. are not kept by the company. Therefore, the user’s activity online is completely anonymous and remains unknown even to the VPN provider. ExpressVPN also offers DNS protection, a kill switch, and OpenVPN support.
The service can be used on Windows, Mac, and Linux, and there are also user-friendly apps available for iOS, Android and Blackberry devices.
The service can be used with Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Blackberry, Chromebook and Linux, and can be used on up to five devices simultaneously.
In case you change your mind, ExpressVPN has a 30-day money-back guarantee.
To find out more about ExpressVPN make sure to read our in-depth review.
Having over 800 servers across more than 50 locations, Surfshark is another great option for your chosen VPN.
SurfShark uses an OpenVPN protocol, an IKEv2 protocol, and the AES 256 bit encryption – these three combined provide a high level of security.
This VPN service also has a killswitch feature that turns off the internet connection in case the connection drops, which means your data will stay safe. The MultiHop feature is also great, as it lets you pick several servers at once (and across different countries), which helps hide your location and makes your security tighter.
Its privacy settings also include a malware blocker and a built-in tracker.
What’s great about this VPN service is that it allows unlimited simultaneous connections, which means your smartphone, tablet, computer, etc. can all be protected.
Regarding its customer service, users have access to a 24-hour chat line, and there’s also a 30-day money-back guarantee.
To find out more about Surfshark make sure to read our in-depth review.
Extra Tips On How To Prevent A Ransomware Attack
Here are some quick tips to follow which will help protect your devices from ransomware:
- Have antivirus software and firewall, preferably one from a company that is known for having excellent ransomware protection, such as McAfee.
- Use a VPN when going online, which will ensure that your connection is always secure and that nobody is spying on you, no matter where you go.
- Backup files to an external drive regularly: having backup copies of your files is the best way to make sure you’re not locked out of them. In the unfortunate case of a ransomware attack happening, you will be able to wipe your computer free and reinstall everything again from your backup.
- Avoid giving out private and sensitive information through texts or emails.
- Make sure all your software is up-to-date: update devices’ software often, since each update usually includes patches for flaws.
- Stay informed: keep account of the latest threats, so that you know what’s out there. Know also that there are decryption tools that are made by tech companies to help victims of ransomware.
- Let your antivirus software scan your emails and any attachments they might contain
Although small and maybe obvious to some, these steps could make all the difference when it comes to a ransomware attack.
Conclusion – Cloudpets app Safety
Without acceptable security, the internet can be a dangerous place, of which the Cloud pets breach is a perfect example. Since Cloud pets are still being sold on some sites, the security risk remains, though these aren’t the only toys of this kind. Beware of possible threats with such toys and apps, as your family’s information could become public in a matter of seconds due to a lack of security.
Ransomware attacks are not uncommon and threats online are lurking almost everywhere. However, installing antivirus software and using a VPN will ensure that your devices stay well-protected at all times. The combination of adequate antivirus software and a VPN will maximize your security levels so that you do not have to worry about your family’s data ending up online for everyone to see. Of course, there are always additional steps you can take, such as backing up files to an external drive and practicing safe surfing.