The article below was originally featured in Worth

The world is more connected than ever, and advancements in technology are evolving at an ever-increasing pace.

While connectivity simplifies our lives in many ways, it also exponentially increases the opportunity for victimization by cyber thieves. Cyber criminals hack into smart devices for different reasons. Financial gain is one, certainly, but another motive could be building credibility as a professional hacker—the more havoc that is wreaked on the family and the home, the better.

Cyber hacking schemes such as phishing and social engineering have been around for some time, and people are getting better at avoiding suspicious emails. But additional attack points are on the rise, including ransomware and cyber extortion. Then there is “malvertising” on perceived safe websites as well as potential infiltration of the IoT devices in your home. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to maximize your family’s protection.

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1) Assess your vulnerability at home.
Cyber experts across AIG believe that by 2020 we could see 40 to 50 billion IoT devices on Earth (about five devices for every person), yet currently, there are no widely adopted safety and security standards. The lack of security protocols on smart home devices opens the door to criminals who can steal personal information; learn your family’s behavior patterns, including when your home is vacant; invade your privacy; and tamper with or disable critical systems. A breach also could lead to extortion threats. Imagine that a family’s members receive intimate photos of themselves in their own home, as a result of a security camera on their property being hacked. With the photos comes a demand for payment in exchange for not publicizing them.

Until manufacturers start operating with uniform security standards, the onus is on the consumer. At a minimum, familiarize yourself with security protocols of all smart home devices prior to purchase. Be leery of manufacturers who won’t share or haven’t instituted security measures or information about how their devices connect.

In addition, make sure to change default IDs and passwords, and institute strong passwords. Just as you do with your personal computer, make sure all smart devices receive regular security updates and patches. Also consider disabling your devices altogether when they’re not in use, and keep a list of all smart devices in your home to audit periodically.

2) Take a smart approach to social media.
Many people hide behind their perceived digital anonymity and use social media platforms to express opinions or post content without recognizing the associated risks. This phenomenon can unwittingly expose individuals to a host of personal injury lawsuits, including libel, defamation of character, invasion of privacy for pictures posted without consent and even bullying. While businesses may lose revenue from bad reviews, individuals may have a harder time recovering from related reputational harm and emotional distress, not to mention the potential financial impact of costly settlements.

To safeguard against possible lawsuits targeting you, create a plan for social media utilization for you and your family members, and any others who represent you, such as domestic staff. Make sure all these people in your life are aware of the potential consequences of their actions. To further enhance family safety, limit the social media applications that are utilized, and create best practices for which actions are acceptable, and which ones are not.

3) Make the most of your insurance choices.
If you don’t already work with an independent insurance advisor, there are specialists who focus exclusively on families with substantial personal assets and have a deep understanding of the related lifestyles and risks. These professionals will have access to insurance solutions that cannot be purchased elsewhere, such as high limits of personal liability insurance, homeowners policies that address cyber threats and proactive loss mitigation services. As a result, you can augment your financial protection if harmful events occur—and reduce the chance of them occurring in the first place.


Anna Brusco, CIC, CPRM, is a vice president with AIG Private Client Group and is responsible for new product development.