Do you live in a “smart” home? If you look around and see interactive speakers, IP cameras, and other internet-connected devices like thermostats and appliances, you are now one of the millions of people who live with so-called “smart” devices. They bring convenience and comfort into our lives, but they also bring greater risks, by giving cybercrooks new opportunities to access our information, and even launch attacks.
You may remember a couple of years ago when thousands of infected devices were used to take down the websites of internet giants like Twitter and Netflix by overwhelming them with traffic. The owners of those devices were regular consumers, who had no idea that their IP cameras and DVRs had been compromised. You may also have heard stories of people who were eavesdropped on via their baby monitors, digital assistants, and webcams when their private networks were breached.
Unfortunately, these are not rare cases. In recent months, the “Internet of Things” (IoT) has been used repeatedly to spy on businesses, launch attacks, or even deliver cryptojacking malware or ransomware.
Still, given the benefits we get from these devices, they are probably here to stay. We just need to acknowledge that today’s “smart” devices can be a little “dumb” when it comes to security. Many lack built-in security protections, and consumers are still learning about the risks they can pose. This is particularly concerning since the market for smart devices is large and growing. There are currently 7 billion IoT devices being used worldwide, and that number is expected to grow to 22 billion by 2025.
Cybercrooks have already taken note of these opportunities since malware attacks on smart devices have escalated rapidly. In fact, McAfee reported that malware directed at IoT devices was up 73%in the third quarter of 2018 alone.
So, whether you have one IoT device, or many, it’s worth learning how to use them safely.
Follow these smart home safety tips:
- Research before you buy—Although most IoT devices don’t have built-in protection, some are safer than others. Look for devices that make it easy to disable unnecessary features, update software, or change default passwords. If you already have an older device that lacks many of these features, consider upgrading it.
- Safeguard your devices—Before you connect a new IoT device to your home network — allowing it to potentially connect with other data-rich devices, like smartphones and computers— change the default username and password to something strong, and unique. Hackers often know the default settings and share them online.Then, turn off any manufacturer settings that do not benefit you, like remote access. This is a feature some manufacturers use to monitor their products, but it could also be used by cybercrooks to access your system. Finally, make sure that your device software is up-to-date by checking the manufacturer’s website. This ensures that you are protected from any known vulnerabilities.
- Secure your network—Your router is the central hub that connects all of the devices in your home, so you need to make sure that it’s secure. If you haven’t already, change the default password and name of your router. Make sure your network name does not give away your address, so hackers can’t locate it. Then check that your router is using an encryption method, like WPA2, which will keep your communications secure. Consider setting up a “guest network” for your IoT devices. This is a second network on your router that allows you to keep your computers and smartphones separate from IoT devices. So, if a device is compromised, a hacker still cannot get to all the valuable information that is saved on your computers. Check your router’s manual for instructions on how to set up a guest network. You may also want to consider investing in an advanced internet router that has built-in protection and can secure and monitor any device that connects to your network.
- Install comprehensive security software –Finally, use comprehensive security software that can safeguard all your devices and data from known vulnerabilities and emerging threats.