By 2020, the Internet of Things (IoT) is expected to generate more than $300 billion in revenue, and most Americans expect smart homes to become as popular as smart phones within 10 years. But these devices are vulnerable to hackers; many have known security flaws that could expose your home network, and seriously disrupt your life.
That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy smart home devices like Alexa or Google Home, or other IoT gadgets like smart lights, robot vacuums, wireless security cameras, and so on. But you need to understand the vulnerabilities smart home devices possess, and you need to take steps to protect your home network.
Your IoT Devices Could Open Your Home Network to Hackers
You probably already protect your smart phone, tablet, and laptop with an antivirus suite. But what about the rest of the connected devices on your home network? Your smart home devices, including smart speakers, lights, appliances, cameras, and more, lack the processing power and memory of your tablet, smart phone, laptop, and other, more robust devices. That means that, while they have what it takes to connect to a network and communicate with other devices, they lack the encryption protocols and security features that your tablet, laptop, or phone have.
What’s more, many IoT devices are crippled by legacy software. Manufacturers may not have considered security threats when designing them, and so they may not even be capable of being updated with security patches. Many connected devices have known security flaws that hackers have been exploiting for years.
Don’t Let Hackers in Through Your Network’s Backdoor
IoT devices can open a back door that allows hackers to access your network, but you can slam that door closed and lock it with just a few simple precautions. The first, and perhaps most important, thing you should do is give your home network the Internet security it needs. Make sure you have a comprehensive antivirus suite that protects against malware and provides protection for multiple devices.
Next, lock down your home network by securing your home router. Use WPA2 encryption, and set up three home networks – one for you and your family to use with tablets, laptops, and smart phones, one for your guests to use with their devices, and one that your IoT devices can use to connect to the Internet and each other. That way, you won’t be creating points of vulnerability every time you give your home network password to a guest, and hackers won’t be able to access your laptop, smart phone or tablet – and the personal information it contains – by hacking your IoT devices.
But don’t stop there. Change your router’s default administrative login credentials; hackers can find these default credentials online fairly easily, so they aren’t secure for long-term use. Turn off remote and cloud-based administrative management for your home network router.
You’ll also want to change the administrative passwords for your IoT devices, too. Disable Universal Plug and Play (UPnP), the feature that allows your IoT devices to find and connect to other devices, because it can also allow hackers to connect to them. Regularly check for, and install, firmware updates for both your connected IoT devices and your router. And, if you have the option, consider turning off connected devices when you’re not using them, or simply not connecting them to the Internet at all if it’s feasible. Does your robot vacuum really need to go online? The fewer things you have connected to your home network, the lower your risk of cyber attack.
Smart gadgets are neat, and they can make our lives a lot easier. But they can also make your home network more vulnerable to hackers. That doesn’t mean you should buy and enjoy them, but it does mean you should use common cyber-security sense when doing so. Do what you can to secure your home network, to keep your IoT devices updated, and to keep them segregated from devices that contain valuable personal information. When you use IoT devices conscientiously, you can enjoy all that modern technology has to offer, and worry less about exposing your personal data to cyber security threats.
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