Smart homes are convenient- and let’s be honest, fun too! The Internet of Things (IoT) is becoming an inescapable part of life. However, as the network grows and becomes ever more complex, we can no longer ignore the security risks that come with having everything from our TV to our fridge and lightbulbs linked to the internet.
The Hacking Risk
Unlike our direct devices like mobile phones and PCs, we seldom stop to think that our fridge may be a source of intrusion into our private data. However, with the IoT becoming more common and more complex, the weak security many of these devices offer is becoming evermore apparent. IoT cyberattacks are on the rise, with many businesses facing the risk of being hacked or at least a mild security threat from IoT-enabled utilities. As hackers become more familiar and comfortable with the new technology, this threat will only grow. Luckily, there’s a lot you can do to keep yourself safe.
Back to Passwords
While most of us at least try to meet the strong password needs of our mobiles and PCs, many of us are guilty of leaving our IoT devices on their default admin passwords. Remember, these defaults are easily available on the internet, ripe for hackers to use against you. Ideally, you should be changing passwords 4 times a year- but how many of us do! If using a robust password is too complex for you to track across all devices, the use of an encrypted password manager can help you stay safe without inconvenience.
There’s a reason this tip turns up in almost every security-focused article- it’s because it works! Multi-factor authentication allows you an extra layer of security on your account, where a pin sent to your phone or an authorized app is needed after password entry. As it is highly unlikely that hackers will have access to both the password and the device needed for authentication, this greatly boosts your security at the cost of very little inconvenience.
Skip the Default
When devices are first added to your network, make sure you are going through their default settings and disabling features you don’t use. Most IoT-enable devices auto-connect to devices and networks around them, which can be beneficial in some setups- but also a recipe for disaster. In particular, focus on only allowing recognized, safe networks for auto-connections.
Manufacturers regularly release security updates to close loopholes in their code. However, hackers know that many people are slow to action software updates, especially for Smart Home items, and once a security patch goes live, it also points out to them the loopholes that were there for them to exploit. If you are still running out-of-date software, this makes you a prime target for them to act on your lack of diligence.
If you are running a broad IoT or Smart Home, you may want to consider using an encrypted VPN when you access the internet through any of these devices. This helps prevent cybercriminals from intercepting data sent through the internet via the device and ensures devices never make contact with the open internet, where traffic can be intercepted.
Secure Your Router
In most setups, the router is the gateway between your IoT and the wider web. If you do not have your router properly secured, it is an easy exploit indeed. Again, be certain that you aren’t running default admin usernames and passwords, which are easy to find. Then make sure you are using the highest encryption levels available on the router, and consider a new router if yours is weak. WPA2 encryption is a solid industry standard and should be the minimum you consider. You may also want to keep the network for personal devices and the IoT separate, for a layer of extra security.
The IoT can be convenient- but it also represents considerable more risk to your data safety. Luckily, there are precautions you can take to ensure you stay safe, even as more devices in your home or office become internet-enabled.