Whether you have a few gadgets or an entire smart home, it’s important to learn how to secure your smart home devices. Cybersecurity experts have identified software vulnerabilities in everything from smart plugs to smart devices used in business settings. These vulnerabilities could impact millions of devices, leaving the door open for cybercriminals to take advantage of them.
Why it’s so easy to hack smart devices
There is a major lack of standardization across smart devices and the levels of security needed. Some smart devices have few to no security features built in. Others have default login information that users may fail to update with their own custom username and password. Since default login information is often made available online, it’s easy for a cybercriminal to use that info to access smart devices. Still other smart devices have firmware that isn’t possible to update. All these factors leave smart devices open to cyberattacks.
The end result? Data leaks.
These security weaknesses leave smart devices exposed and easy to hack, and since smart devices connect to the internet or other networks, a lot of data and information can be easily exposed. By accessing one smart device, they may be able to access others.
Take for instance the fact that the purpose of smart devices is often to collect data. Your smart thermostat may use geofencing to determine when you’re home or away. Your smart speaker stores a lot of your personal data too, including the audio files of your voice commands. Smart devices with webcams, like baby monitors, smart TVs, and security systems, transmit visual data.
The results of hacking can be scary. Cybercriminals can gain access through a webcam to see what’s going on in your home. They can even adjust the settings on your smart thermostat. But hackers can also gain access to your personal information, including bank account information or login details.
How to secure your smart home devices
To prevent hacking, follow these steps to secure your smart home devices.
Step 1: Research devices before you buy
You may need to go beyond customer reviews when you’re shopping online for smart devices on Walmart, Amazon, Home Depot and other marketplaces. Reviewers may enjoy the features, but they don’t always know about security vulnerabilities in devices. You may want to do a web search on the specific name of the device plus the phrase “security issues” to find any known security problems associated with that device.
Step 2: Factor in risk and benefit
Even despite your best efforts, smart devices may still be vulnerable to hacking. It’s up to you to decide if the benefits of the device outweigh the potential risks. Depending on the type of device and the brand you buy, you may very well get more benefit than risk.
Step 3: Update any usernames and passwords
If your smart device has a login, it’s time to change the credentials. Set a unique username and set a strong password. Ideally, the password you set should not be used anywhere else. If you need help managing passwords, you can use a password manager to both create and keep track of strong passwords.
Step 4: Set up multi-factor authentication
There are many types of multi-factor authentication. You might be familiar with getting a code sent to you by text message, then entering that along with your password to sign in to a banking website or even Facebook. Another type of authentication is a separate authenticator app on your phone that you use to approve logins. In some cases, your fingerprint might be used to authenticate logins. Your smart device may use any of these options to verify your identity, so be sure to research your options.
Step 5: Secure your network
Since many of your smart devices will use a WiFi connection to operate, take steps to secure your home WiFi network. Update your router’s admin username and password from the default and raise a firewall. You may also want to create a guest network. This will help protect your other systems and devices from being accessed if your smart device does get hacked.
Step 6: Keep all devices updated
Regularly update the firmware on your router and any smart devices that allow you to. Updates help to patch any weaknesses a hacker might ordinarily sneak through. You may also want to get specific security software for smart devices. If you do, make sure you run updates frequently on that software, too.
Smart devices can make our lives better and work more seamlessly. But failing to secure these devices can open your smart home up to cyberattacks. Take the steps today to learn how to secure your smart home devices. For more on smart home devices, check out these articles: