Smart gadgets are making our homes safer, more efficient and far more comfortable, but they’ve also created new opportunities for cyber criminals. By following the advice below you can easily secure your smart home again hackers and cyber attacks.
What can hackers do to my smart home?
If someone managed to hack into one, or all of your smart devices right now, what personal information would they have access to? And how might they weaponize your favorite smart devices against you? How about:
- Recording video footage of you in your own home, by tapping into your security cameras and webcams.
- Working out when your property is most likely to be empty, by examining the routines programmed into your smart thermostat.
- Harnessing your smart devices’ processing power, and then using it to launch a large-scale cyber attack against other unsuspecting smart home owners.
- Putting your entire house on lockdown, and demanding a ransom before letting you back in.
The possibilities are endless, but that doesn’t mean you have to say goodbye to all of your favorite smart gadgets!
1. Go to the source
Let’s start by heading to the source of almost all digital attacks: the Internet.
Your Wi-Fi router is the most vulnerable spot in your smart home, so you’ll need to make sure it’s locked down tight:
- Change your router’s name. Most routers have a default name assigned by the manufacturer, but this often reveals information about the router, such as its make and model. We want to limit the amount of information a potential hacker has to work with, so you should change this factory-assigned default to something unique and unusual, that also doesn’t give away your location or identity.
- Use a strong encryption method. When you setup your Wi-Fi network access, opt for a strong encryption method, such as WPA2.
- Create additional networks. You may want to create a dedicated second network for your smart devices so if someone does manage to hack into your primary Wi-Fi network, they won’t immediately have access to all of your smart devices. It’s also a good idea to setup a guest network, which will allow you to share your Wi-Fi with friends and family, without giving them access to all of your smart devices.
- Consider investing in a third party router. You don’t have to use the router that’s shipped to you by your Internet service provider. Many third parties sell routers, and some of them offer better security than the routers that are included in your typical Internet package.
2. Don’t settle for default
Any cyber criminal who’s done their research will know the default passwords that are pre-programmed into many popular IoT products.
When you purchase a smart device, you should always change the default password. Remember that all of the usual password best practices apply: choose a password that’s long, complex and unique to that particular device. If you’re struggling under the weight of having to remember so many passwords, then you can always use a password manager app such as LastPass or Dashlane.
While you’re changing the password, you should also review the device’s default privacy and security settings.
The settings that work for the manufacturer, may not necessarily work for you, and they could even compromise your privacy, as manufacturers often want to gather as much information about their customers as possible.
3. Disable all unnecessary features
When you purchase a new smart device, it’s not unusual for every feature to be enabled out-of-the-box – manufacturers want to make a good first impression, after all!
It may sound paranoid, but every active feature is a potential route into your smart home. Don’t make a hacker’s job any easier: when you purchase a smart device, take stock of all the features that are enabled, and disable any that you don’t currently need. Not only will this make your smart home more secure, but disabling unnecessary features can make your devices perform better, and consume less energy.
4. Update everything
Software updates often contain security features and fixes, so it’s important to keep your smart devices and their companion apps up-to-date.
If you interact with your smart home using a smartphone or tablet, then it also doesn’t hurt to make sure you’re running the latest version of your mobile operating system.
Finally, don’t forget about your router, as manufacturers may release firmware updates from time-to-time. If you’re unsure how to update your router, then check out the manufacturer’s website for more information.
5. Add an extra layer of security, with MFA
Once MFA (multi-factor authentication) is enabled, authenticating your identity becomes a two step process: you’ll need to enter your password and then pass an additional security check, such as entering a one-time code that’s shared with you via SMS or email.
If one of your smart devices or companion apps offer MFA, then it’s always a good idea to enable it. With MFA is place, even if a hacker does manage to get their hands on your password, they still won’t have access to your smart home.
6. Say “no” to the temptation of public Wi-Fi
Do you manage your smart home from your mobile device? When you’re out-and-about, it can be tempting to drop into your smart apps and check how things are going back home, but you should never access your smart devices while connected to public Wi-Fi.
When you’re connected to a public network, any information you transmit could potentially be accessed by other people on that network – and that includes the login details for your smart devices.
Smart devices are some of the most advanced and exciting tech currently on the market, but that doesn’t mean they’re immune from hackers! Just like you protect your smartphone with a PIN, password or even MFA, you need to take steps to keep your smart devices safe.