Connecting various smart devices such as cameras, door locks, lights and thermostats to the world wide web makes not only these devices and systems, but also you and your home visible to hackers. What this means is that almost every internet-enabled and connected device becomes a target for exploitation and wrong doing.
The Risk is Real
There is already an alarming number of hacked laptop, smartphone and living room cameras, baby monitors, routers and even medical devices and alert systems. In 2018, a malware called VPNFilter has infected more than 500.000 routers around the world and used the existing in-home connection to instal malware on smart devices and systems.
Back in 2016, hundreds of thousands of IoT-enabled devices were compromised and used as a part of a botnet network called Mirai. Individually, the processing power of these IoT devices is negligible, but connecting them into a single network combines this processing power into a force capable of dangerous large-scale cyberattacks. How dangerous, you might ask? Enough to temporarily shut down websites or giants such as Netflix, Paypal and Spotify.
What is more frightening is that these two examples show how cybercriminals can act both locally, as well as globally, by either infecting your devices to bring you harm or using them as a part of a large-scale cyberattack.
So, what can you do to protect yourself and your smart homes?
Consider both the benefits and vulnerabilities
Unfortunately, there is no IT structure in the world that is 100% secure. What we can and are doing is reduce the potential risk for a cyberattack. Consider the convenience offered by various smart devices as well as the potential risk posed by their installation.
A front door camera might offer the benefit of protection and continuous monitoring, but more often than not, that same footage is being relayed via or uploaded to the internet. Private networks and servers, on the other hand, will cost you a pretty penny both to install and manage as the time goes by.
Sure, convenience should never be more important than security, but a security system has to be convenient, otherwise no one will bother getting it in the first place.
Secure Your Home Network
It is absolutely staggering just how many people purchase modems, routers and similar devices from reputable sources. What’s even worse is that almost all of them don’t even consider changing the name or their network or the default pre-installed password that comes with said router.
Keeping the existing name and passwords only makes it easier for hackers to cross-reference model-specific names with the default passwords they come with. You’d be surprised just how easily that type of information can be dug up online.
Pro-tip: use a non-identifiable name for your network and a password that contains a combination of both upper- and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols. And no, do not write it on a piece of paper somewhere, save it as a contact on your phone or save it in your notes.
Two-Factor Authentication is another important step in securing your smart home. It adds a much-needed second layer of security by requiring you to input a six-digit code that is generated every time you enter your password. The great thing about 2FA is that these codes is that they can only be used once and are only available for a certain amount of time before they expire.
Update the firmware on your devices
Firmware refers to the basic software used to power both your router and the IoT-enabled devices that are connected to it. Updating your firmware regularly ensures that your devices cannot be easily breached due to unpatched exploits.
This is particularly important for medical devices and medical alert systems on carried and worn devices that offer constant monitoring of vital parameters such as wristbands, necklaces and so on.
If you think that this is a far-fetched idea, have in mind that the latest iteration of smart-watches such as Apple Watch now offer both heart-beat and saturation monitoring for their users. While this may be seen as a gimmick, there are medical devices that are designed to do just that: monitor your vital parameters and alarm the appropriate agencies in case things go south for their users.
Cybersecurity might be the number one priority for consumers who buy them, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that it is equally important for the brands and manufacturers who make them.
Be meticulous with your research and double-check devices on Ebay and Amazon that boast low prices and amazing reviews despite being relatively unknown. Buy only from reputable sources and avoid relying on the default passwords that come with them.
It only takes a couple of minutes of work and research to figure out how to change the defaults, but it does make a world of difference. Hopefully, this article has shed some light on the subject of home security.
But what do you think? Are smart homes really worth the hustle and risk or is their adoption just an inevitability and we just need to figure out how to make them as secure as possible? Let us know in the comments below.