Protecting Your Smart Home From a Cyberattack

Illustration: © IoT For All

It’s amazing all the things you can do with IoT devices and smart assistants. Sadly though, many IoT devices aren’t very secure. There’s a lot of concern about what hackers and cyber criminals can do with a single, unprotected device.

An unsecured IoT device could allow a cyber criminal access to everything else that shares the same network. For example, your smart cat food bowl might be unsecured, making it easy for a cyber criminal to gain access. From there, they might get into the Alexa unit that’s connected to the smart bowl. This would allow them to send commands to every other device connected to the network, which could result in everything from unlocked doors to identity theft.

Rather than leave a gap in your home’s security, just get rid of, or disconnect old IoT devices. An unsecured #IoT device could allow cybercriminals access to everything else that shares the same network. || #IoTForAll @TechNative Click To Tweet

As criminals become more tech-savvy, consumers need to take new measures to protect themselves. If you have or want to have an IoT-connected (or “smart”) home, you need to make sure everything is protected.

Secured WiFi With a Strong Password

You need to have a properly secured WiFi network, even if you don’t use IoT devices. A hacker connecting to an unsecured WiFi network could do tons of damage, including gaining access to your computer, smartphones, and more.

The first step to a secured WiFi is a strong network password. If you’ve never customized or changed the WiFi password, you really should. Follow typical password advice by including upper and lower case letters, numbers, symbols, and something not easily guessed.

It’s also a smart idea to name your WiFi network inconspicuously to avoid attention. Putting your name, address, or something easily identifiable as part of your WiFi name can put a target on your back. Boring or simple names like “Network 2” or similar can help keep you safe by not drawing attention.

Connecting Devices Properly, and Then Locking Them Up

IoT devices rely on WiFi and Bluetooth connections to send data. Devices that stay in your smart home typically require a one-time setup and that’s it. However, mobile IoT devices, like Fitbits and smartwatches, might be constantly looking for a connection.

Make sure to set up all your IoT devices so they only search for an established connection. If you leave one that relies on Bluetooth for a connection, it will always be searching for a new connection, and a hacker could quickly connect to it, load it up with malware, then disconnect. Then, that malware could spread to your phone and other devices on every WiFi network you connect to after that.

Updating Your IoT Devices

The software attached to IoT devices can quickly become out of date, allowing hackers to find vulnerabilities. For every IoT device you have, make sure you understand how it updates its software and what it needs from you. Some will automatically update when a patch comes out, but others may require permission from you. A few might even require a download to a physical drive and manual installation.

Keep track of updates for your devices and watch for news of vulnerabilities. If there’s a vulnerability found on a device you have, and a patch hasn’t fixed it yet, disconnect the device so you stay secure. Failing to protect your IoT-enabled smart home properly could expose you to a cyberattack.

Be Cautious of Connecting Valuable Info

Many AI assistants or other devices can do amazing things, one of which is making purchases for you. It’s super convenient, but it could open you up to trouble. Be careful when adding personal information and accounts to IoT devices. Make sure the device is very secure. If a hacker breaks into your network, it’s possible they could get access to private information. That could mean identity or credit card theft, using your card to make purchases through your account, and more.

If you think your card has been breached or your identity has been stolen, monitor your credit score. A major sign a hacker has stolen your identity is unexpected changes to your credit score or strange activity on your credit report. If you plan on putting private info on an assistant device, like a Google Home or Alexa, consider using a credit score alert to notify you of a drop in score.

Remove Old Devices

In the coming years, upgrades and new versions of IoT devices will come out. That means you’ll want to upgrade your IoT network, leaving you with old, unused devices. Be sure to disconnect these from your network, especially if you aren’t even using them.

Every device connecting to your smart home’s network is a potential gap in your security. Eventually, the IoT company will stop supporting old devices, meaning they will no longer provide new updates or patches. If a security flaw arises in a device, a fix will not be available. Rather than leave a gap in your smart home’s security, just get rid of, or disconnect, old IoT devices.

A home that utilizes IoT devices may be extremely convenient, but it does open up new risks. A smart user will keep their network protected as much as possible, keep their devices up to date and secured, and be aware of any and all risks their devices present.

Written by Beau Peters, freelance writer and tech aficionado

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