People are being warned about the importance of cyber security this Christmas

People are being warned about cyber security. Pic: Rob  McDougall

People are being warned about cyber security. Pic: Rob McDougall

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People are being warned about the importance of cyber security as Christmas Day approaches.

December 25 has fast become the biggest day of the year for online and app downloads as users set up their new devices.

Whilst users are seeking out ever more uses for their new devices, which include smartphones, tablets, smart watches and an increasing number of electronic children’s toys that rely on connectivity, experts are warning consumers to think before they share, as personal data becomes ever more vulnerable.

Many apps and websites are now able to pull together a range of information from third party sources such as social media, e-mail, weather forecasts and news feeds and may link to code libraries hosted on third-party websites for processing content.

The danger comes when users are passed through those links, personal information may not be held securely.

Alan Matthew, corporate law specialist at Miller Hendry, said: “We are all doing more and more of our personal affairs online, whether it’s shopping, banking or just browsing and, combined with the huge rise of use of social media channels, there is a vast amount of our personal information stored on the internet. “Whilst it’s great for convenience, consumers must be sure that the business they are dealing with is going to protect your personal information.”

Both Sony in the United States and UK based telecoms provider TalkTalk have been the victim of high profile hacking cases in recent months.

One of the biggest leaks, which has affected more than 11 million parents and children across the world, is the breach of personal data involving Hong Kong-based toy giant VTech.

Alan continued: “It is vital that every business is able to reassure customers that they have a strong cyber-security programme in place and that they understand their legal responsibility to do so by meeting the requirements of the Data Protection Act and the Communications Act.

“When downloading apps, make sure you check reviews and do some research on what you’re buying and, when purchasing online, avoid using the same passwords and memorable information.”

As technology becomes ever more complex, there are many more ways in which data can be vulnerable, beyond the obvious criminal hacking in to steal personal information.”

He added: “Another example where cyber-life and reality may collide, would be an app that collects location data and interlinks with social networks by posting automatic updates that show a user’s position, which can expose them to direct crime, such as burglary if the update shows they’re away from home.”

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is the UK’s independent authority responsible for data protection and they recommend that users only download from trusted or official app stores and to run security software on their mobile devices, whether it’s a smartphone, tablets or smart watch.