More connected, more risk? Experts advise cyber caution

Published: Dec. 6, 2017 at 10:53 PM AKST
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The so-called Internet of Things and rise of machines are, together, opening a dangerous door for users across the world.

"The issue we're seeing right now is called The Internet of Things," said Supervisory Special Agent William Walton of the Anchorage Federal Bureau of Investigation, describing the interconnection of everyday objects - which are able to send and receive data - that people use.

"(There's) the ability of cybercriminals to compromise routers, DVRs, internet-connected devices," he said.

In turn, commercial or residential, more connectivity could mean that you're also more at risk.

"The key thing is ... missing the mark on protection," said Matt Peters of Threat Informant, an Anchorage-based cybersecurity agency.

Most devices in homes and businesses come equipped with default credentials. That means that usernames and passwords, for example, are often widely available.

The best advice? Change those passwords a couple of times a year - for accounts and systems of all kinds - and make them complicated codes that only you would know. Utilize a mix of random letters, numbers and symbols, and try to avoid dictionary words. You can even try using password generators that will create random, hard-to-crack codes.

Otherwise, it's easy for cybercriminals to use you to help them.

"As a cyber criminal, the reason I might break into your network is to use that internet connection anonymously so that anything I do falls back on you," Peters said. "It's very important that [the password] doesn't have dictionary words in it.

"We have businesses tell us all the time, 'Yeah, there's dictionary words in it, but you would never guess them,'" he said. "And then two days later, we of course guess them."

Additionally, there's extra risk in Alaska, with an expanse of IoT devices across millions of acres of land. Add on the tiers of data charges from certain providers, and the risk increases further.

"When a cybercriminal compromises one of these Internet of Things devices, they can cause a larger amount of data to be pushed through that device than the user is aware of," Walton said, "which of course increases the cost."

So, Walton and Peters said, pay attention to IoT devices, including routers, phones, computers, cars, toys and kitchen appliances. Be careful what you download, and consistently update software, passwords and anti-spyware.

"We can compromise those devices very easily, which gives us access to the rest of your network," Peters said, "or it gives us access to your internet."

For more information on cybercrimes and how to help protect yourself, head over to the

Channel 2's Daniel Kirby contributed to this report.