Smart home devices have quickly changed the way we interact with the world. They include everything from talking microwaves to turning off the lights without moving from the bed. Instead, our lives are now interacting with personal assistants on our smartphones, tablets and computers. We’re locking doors with the touch of a button or using cameras to protect our home even from halfway around the world.
The rise in all this technology is not without its challenges, and chief among them is security. As popular as smart home devices are, they are vulnerable to hackers, which can make user data susceptible to stealing. So what can you do to protect yourself against a smart home attack?
Philips Hue Gets Hacked
For the most part, you can take action to protect yourself by having a strong password, being smart and not taking unnecessary risks. On the other hand, some smart home device vulnerabilities are simply out of your control.
For example, Philips, manufacturer of the wildly popular Hue smart light bulb, had a flaw discovered by a third-party researcher. So what happened? Essentially, hackers could take control of a Philips Hue light bulb and install malicious firmware. They could then change your bulb’s brightness and color from anywhere in the world. There was little you could do to stop it, and it took a few months for Philips to correct the problem. Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon scenario, and it very well could get worse as smart home products continue to grow in popularity.
Smart Home Cameras Are Extra Vulnerable
Smart home cameras have exploded in popularity and for good reason. This product lineup is an inexpensive way to feel safer in your home – all without spending a fortune. The flip side is that smart home cameras are often the main target for hackers. We have heard all too many stories in the news over the past couple years of baby monitors getting hacked and scaring the who-knows-what out of parents. Often times these cameras are activated without parents ever knowing, only to discover it when someone just starts talking.
So what can parents do? Choosing strong passwords and enabling two-factor authentication is a good place to start. Doing research is especially critical – know exactly what you are purchasing and search online to be sure the company isn’t the source of previous hacks or software flaws.
Outdated Software Can Leave You Exposed
For millions (and millions) of smart home products, the greatest threat is a lack of software updates. That goes either for the companies that manufacture these products or the users who choose to ignore or are not notified an update exists. Updating software can patch holes that can leave user data exposed and/or allow a hacker to take control. Keeping up to date with all of your smart home product software is critical to staying safe and minimizing your risk.
If the product itself doesn’t have an app or another method to quickly check for software, head to its website to look for more info. This is a simple and easy method to protect yourself and one that requires zero cost for smart home product owners around the world.
So How Do You Stay Safe?
It helps to know right from the start that staying safe from security problems is not a one-step answer. There are a multitude of things you can do to stay safe. As mentioned previously, make sure you have a strong password. This password should have nothing to do with your friends, family, kids, birthday or anything else that can easily be guessed. Alongside a strong password, enable two-step authentication which can make it extremely difficult for a hacker to gain access to your smart home accounts.
When you are installing devices, keep an eye out for the permissions of each product or service request. Checking the privacy settings can help you see exactly what information is being shared and help you limit those data transfers. It might also help to use a separate, unrelated email with all of your smart home products. Make sure this email has no access to other more personal aspects of your life like bank accounts, medical information, etc.
Of course, the best way to stay protected is to simply do your research. Know which products have a history of security troubles and which ones have been meticulously tested by third-party researchers and are said to be well-protected.
Once you have done all of the necessary research, do not connect these smart home products unless your home Wi-Fi network is running its own security. Do not use the original router login credentials and rename the network to something of your own choosing. These tips might seem obvious, but you would be surprised how many people do not act on them.
There you have it. For all of the smart home product benefits, they can also make for a nightmare if mistreated. The good news is that you can take proactive action to make sure you are protected. Every step you take is one less chance hackers will choose you as their next target.