With approaching 50 million smart households here in the US as we edge into 2020, your safety within your own connected home is paramount.
What do we mean by that, exactly?
Well, unless you’ve been living under a
rock, you’ll be aware of a handful of security breaches over the past eighteen
months. From compromised smart speakers and leaked data to entire platforms
like Google Nest and Philips Hue shown
to have vulnerabilities, consumers are taking a step back.
So, you’ve invested in some smart
devices for the convenience factor alongside a sense of security. Before we
look at some specific safety concerns, which of these devices are riskiest?
Which Smart Devices Are Most Vulnerable?
The short answer is, “All of them.”
In one way, smart devices are like networked computers. Continually harvesting data from sensors baked in, all an attacker needs to do is exploit an IoT vulnerability, and they’ll have access to your home network.
That doesn’t sound very encouraging,
The good news is that because smart devices can be hacked like a computer or a website, protecting yourself is a matter of simple best practice, which we’ll outline below.
When was the last time you heard of a hack in a smart microwave? Smart appliances like ovens or fridges are your safest bet.
How about outdoor devices with limited capacity for security protocols like garage door openers, smart sprinklers, or wireless doorbells? Well, these might be convenient additions to your connected home, but they are also a weak point.
Smart devices indoors can also be
vulnerable. App-controlled tech like smart bulbs and switches, thermostats, and
digital assistants can also be hacked. Security tokens in place are weak,
configuration settings, and vulnerable entry points all leave you at risk.
Maybe you’re accepting this harsh
reality but asking yourself why someone would bother attacking your smart
devices in the first place.
Why Would Someone Attack Your Smart Devices?
Hackers are attempting to acquire passwords for online banking and other accounts. They can enter and penetrate your network through the back door of smart devices.
And it’s what someone can do once they
have access to your network that’s the dangerous part.
Beyond grabbing that sensitive personal data, they could also turn off your security cameras or even spy on you through a camera already in place. They’ll also be aware of when you’re away from home if you activate Away Mode on your thermostat, exposing you to a heightened risk of burglary.
All of these scenarios are wildly
unlikely. Nevertheless, they are possible.
What counts is being aware of these
risks and doing everything you can to protect yourself against these security
Top 5 Smart Home Safety Concerns and How To Fight Back
- A Vulnerable Router
- Compromised WiFi Network
- Weak Passwords
- Smart Devices Not Fully Updated
- Accessing Smart Devices From Public WiFi
1) A Vulnerable Router
Your router is a perfect soft spot that’s wide open to receiving malware.
The first thing you should do straight out the box changes the default username and password. Often, all a hacker needs are the default name of a router, and they can determine the boilerplate password.
You should reset your router every
couple of weeks as a matter of routine.
2) Compromised WiFi Network
It would help if you took sensible precautions when setting up your home WiFi network.
The majority of routers allow you to
configure multiple networks. In simple terms,
you could set up one network specifically for smart devices. You can
also create a guest network for any visitors. By doing this, limited sensitive
information exposes in the event of a security breach.
Maybe you’re not particularly
tech-savvy, and creating multiple networks sounds like a headache. Well,
there’s some good news…
Update your router and opt for a mesh
WiFi system like Google
Nest WiFi. The primary benefit of a mesh network is a dependable single
from corner to corner of even large connected homes.
In terms of security, you’ll have the
option of multiple networks without the headache of navigating an older router
There’s also a revamped version of this mesh network offering even wider-reaching coverage.
3) Weak Passwords
Don’t underestimate the importance of
The first thing you should do with any
new smart device is to change the login credentials. Failing to do exposes you
to a significant risk as so many of these gadgets come bundled with the same default
details. The vast bulk of successful cyber attacks come about after login
details are compromised.
Choose random strings of characters in place of real words, avoid using personal information, and change your passwords regularly. It would help if you also refrain from using the same passwords across accounts and devices. That way, a security breach in one area doesn’t mean you’re at risk across the board.
Consider using a password manager or a physical notebook to keep track of these passwords. After all, it’s pointless overhauling your security if you end up locked out yourself.
4) Smart Devices Not Fully Updated
We know those software update requests can become tiresome, but they’re in place for your benefit.
Software updates are used to address
security flaws or loopholes. Failing to update leaves you at risk.
Consider using automatic updates if you
don’t mind relinquishing a little control. You’ll never end up forgetting, and
you can always revert to manual updates.
Make sure, too, that you
stay up to date with all firmware.
5) Accessing Smart Devices From Public WiFi
Imagine you’re pecking away on your
laptop at Starbucks while the stranger opposite is carrying out a virtual
invasion of your smart home.
A study carried out by computer scientists at the College of William and Mary exposed many flaws in IoT devices. One of these weaknesses is the way hackers can enter your home through a low-security smart device like a smart light switch. In an example of what’s known as lateral privilege escalation, the hacker can then access other elements of your connected home.
Luckily for you, minimizing your exposure here is simple. Don’t use public WiFi networks for smart device management. You could theoretically use a VPN for protection, but you’re better off sidestepping public forums for checking up on your smart home.
Well, the last thing we want to do here
is to whip up any worries for you. That said, if you’re automating your home,
you should be aware of best practices to minimize any risk of hacking.
If you’re looking for the latest smart home news so you can stay abreast
of security issues, bookmark our blog. We update our content daily. And, if you
feel the temptation to upgrade your WiFi for a mesh network, why not sign up
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