Around the holidays, most everyone hopes they get at least one new, shiny piece of technology to play with. Hot tech items will likely be a common request this year, and there is an ever-increasing amount of products to choose from that will satisfy that request. There are IoT devices available for all ages; from drones, to baby monitors, fitness trackers, smart speakers, and child-friendly tablets. We buy each of these products to fill an assumed “need”, and as your home becomes smarter, more convenient, and more efficient, it’s essential that you learn how to keep it all secure.
Internet of Things (IoT) is the web of electronic devices you have connected to your network. These devices all have the ability to share information with each other. Your phone, TV, speakers, lights, security cameras, and even your smart refrigerator can all be connected through your network to make a smart home.
Cybercriminals can act locally or globally to gain access to your IoT. Smart devices, with such an immediate physical impact on your life, are a good target for cybercriminals to aim for. Theoretically, cybercriminals could hack into homes with smart devices and control everything that the home owner could. After hacking, the criminal can do anything from turning up and down speaker volume, turning lights on and off, to locking and unlocking doors. A hacker could even potentially remotely watch you through your own security cameras to know when you leave. This gives them the opportunity to break into your house and know you’re not there. While these may be dramatic examples, all of the before listed things could potentially happen– and all it likely takes is hacking into one device to have access to the others.
Security Starting with Your Router
You can think of your wireless router as the “front door” to your tangle of devices. Like any front door, you most likely want to keep it locked and secure to prohibit access to your IoT devices.
- You can start with giving your router a name. I would suggest choosing a name that has no personal identifiers to you. You don’t want to give away any information that could point to you. Make sure the name you choose is unique to your router, and also make sure it isn’t a phrase that you use over and over for passwords or usernames.
- Next, it is recommended that you use an encrypted method, like WPA2, when you set up Wi-Fi access. This will give your network an added layer of security.
- On your router, you should also make sure you change the default password, as these defaults are common and are easy for cybercriminals to know and guess. Make sure you choose a password that is uncommon and complex, and not used for anything else.
- For even more security, set up a guest network and keep your Wi-Fi account private. This way, visitors to your house can sign into your guest network and your IoT devices can be separate. After all, the less devices on your IoT network, the less vulnerable and more secure it will be.
Your IoT Devices
Most of the time, smart devices can connect with each other and can be controlled from your smartphone. Amazon Alexa, Google Home, Siri and other artificial intelligence (AI) devices enable you to use voice assist to accomplish simple tasks such as turning on your speaker or lights, bumping up the heat on your thermostat, or even unlocking your front door. These capabilities are convenient, efficient, and can save you time. As aforementioned, this interconnectedness can have its downsides, though. There are a few things you can do to better secure these devices without having to forgo the convenience of IoT.
- Just like for your wireless router, it is important to reset any default usernames and passwords that come on your device. These passwords/usernames are used elsewhere and it’s pretty easy for a hacker to know these.
- It is also important to keep your devices updated. As flaws are found in software, updates become available to fix these flaws. Flaws cause security concerns for the device because this makes it easier to hack. If you always update when a new version of software comes out, then you are always on the latest, safest version of the software.
Smart home devices including smart speakers can do some really amazing things. It can be fun to play around with their features and implement the things they can do into your every day routine. But you don’t have to sacrifice your privacy in order to utilize your smart speaker’s full potential. This article from Consumer Reports offers some good advice on How to Set Up a Smart Speaker for Privacy.
For more information on IoT safety, StaySafeOnline is a great resource. StaySafeOnline is powered by the National Cyber Security Alliance. Their goal is to create awareness around cybersecurity and to empower users with the information they need to keep their information safe.
Read More on How to Keep Your Smart Home Safe
If you plan on buying IoT devices for your loved ones (or maybe yourself!) this holiday season, Mozilla, a buyer’s guide to help its readers shop smart and safe, is a great resource. They have a guide to a lot of the latest IoT products where users are able to rate how “creepy” they find the product. Mozilla also researches products and awards them if they meet their minimum security standard.