Secure Your Home: Set Up IoT Devices on a Separate Network

Zac Amos
Secure Your Home: Set Up IoT Devices on a Separate Network
Illustration: © IoT For All

Setting up IoT devices on a separate network can add an extra layer of security between these vulnerable devices and more sensitive tech like phones and laptops. IoT tools are often at a high risk of hacking, but users can still use them safely by isolating them on a secure secondary network. Creating one is usually free and only takes a few steps. 

Why Set up IoT Devices on a Separate Network?

When setting up IoT devices for the first time, people might simply connect them to their main network like all their other tech. However, this might not be a good idea. Connecting them to a separate network can improve cybersecurity and doesn’t even require a new router. 

IoT devices tend to be more vulnerable to hacking than more interactive products like phones or home computers. There are a few reasons for this. First, they often have weak built-in security features.

For instance, it’s common for these items to have reused, easy-to-guess default passwords. Many people don’t know how to change them, leaving their products vulnerable. 

Additionally, IoT devices have minimal processing power but high connectivity. This means it’s more challenging to run security software on them. However, they can usually communicate with many other devices on a network. As a result, hackers have few protections to break through, and a hacked IoT tool can get them access to many others. 

Setting up IoT devices on a separate network can protect against hacking. Even if a vulnerable item is hacked, the attacker won’t be able to access other devices since they are not on the same network.

And just because your devices haven’t been hacked yet, that doesn’t mean you won’t experience an attack down the road. Experts project the cybercrime industry will grow to $10.5 trillion in the next few years — it’s better to take precautions now than to lose your data in a cyberattack in the future.

Luckily, it’s fairly easy to set up a separate system on a router. 

1. Segment the Network

Before connecting IoT devices to a separate network, users must create a new one on their router. This should not require purchasing a new internet plan or buying another router. 

Most standard home internet routers can support at least one additional network on the same device. Technically, they both use the same internet connection but are separated from one another. This is a process known as network segmentation. Most people have encountered this when using a guest network at a store or restaurant. 

People can create their own guest networks on their home router and use them for IoT devices. There are a few ways to segment them depending on the router, so individuals should check the user manual or contact their internet provider if they need help. Users can typically create a guest network on the router itself in their internet provider’s mobile app, or through their browser. 

People segmenting a brand-new network may need a new Wi-Fi password to get started. Usually, this is printed on a label on the back of the router or underneath it. Individuals who can’t find the password anywhere should contact their internet providers. Changing the default password once they get into the new network is also a good idea. 

After creating the new network, people should give it a unique name so they avoid confusing it with the primary network. They can simply call it “Guest Network” or any other title they want. 

2. Secure the IoT Network

The next step is securing the new network. A typical guest network is supposed to have less security than the main network, but that’s not the case when it’s used for IoT devices. Users should create a unique, complex password for the secondary network and ensure it’s different from the main one. 

Users should avoid reusing passwords from websites, email addresses, or other devices. One of the leading cybersecurity threats today is phishing, which hackers often use to steal personal information, including passwords. If someone reuses a password for their IoT network and it’s compromised in a breach or phishing attack, their whole system could become vulnerable. 

3. Connect the IoT Devices

People can connect their IoT devices after setting up and securing the secondary network. If any of them are already connected to the primary network, they should disconnect them by removing the device from their router. 

When connecting or reconnecting IoT devices, people should locate the guest or renamed secondary network from the list of available Wi-Fi networks. They should double-check that it’s visible on the router or internet provider’s mobile app if it is not appearing as an available network. Once they find it, they can enter the password like normal and connect within a few seconds. 

4. Update Default Passwords

Users should remove default passwords after connecting their IoT devices to the new secondary network. Device manufacturers often use the same set of standard passwords across large groups of products. As a result, they are weak and easy to guess. 

Updating those passwords should be one of the first steps when setting up an IoT device. Each one should have a unique, randomized password. People can use a free password generator tool to create as many as they need. They should save them but be careful not to write them down on paper or put them in a text document. The safest solution is to use a password manager tool, many of which are free. 

5. Activate Network Monitoring (Optional)

People who want to add an extra layer of security to their IoT devices can activate some basic network monitoring tools. Most modern routers provide an alert when they detect a new device. They will know if someone connects to their network. 

Setting up this feature varies from one router to another, so people may need to contact their internet provider for instructions. However, network alerts are often accessible through ISPs’ mobile apps, where users can also view all the devices on their network. 

Keeping IoT Devices Secure

Setting up IoT devices on a separate network can help protect against cyberattacks. These items are more vulnerable to hacking than other types. Isolating them on their own network can prevent hackers from accessing sensitive data on phones, tablets, laptops, and PCs. The easiest way to separate IoT devices is by creating a guest network on a home router, which only takes a few steps.

Zac Amos
Zac Amos - Features Editor, ReHack
Zac Amos is the Features Editor at ReHack, where he writes about all things tech-related, from cybersecurity to AI to IoT.
Zac Amos is the Features Editor at ReHack, where he writes about all things tech-related, from cybersecurity to AI to IoT.