Six Tips to Secure Your IoT Devices This Holiday Season

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Illustration: © IoT For All

The holiday season marks the time of year when we spend time with friends and family enjoying fantastic food and exchanging gifts. Each year our wish lists include more technical gadgets that make our lives more enjoyable or secure if done right.

These devices can also make our lives more convenient. We use smart doorbells to see who’s visiting, intelligent security systems to protect our homes, and connected baby monitors to check the nursery while on the go. Smart speakers can even tell other devices what to do, reminding your TV to record a show or your heating system to increase the temperature.

There will be over 26 billion IoT devices by 2020, including the one on your child’s wish list. But there’s a darker side to this technology because these gadgets can be hacked and used for nefarious purposes.

Many IoT devices have built-in microphones, cameras, or location trackers that broadcast information without you even knowing it. As consumers, we need to do our research to understand how to protect ourselves, so we can enjoy the value these devices provide.

It’s important to read company privacy policies and know what these devices are learning about you and your family. Service providers are getting more transparent and allowing consumers to opt-out of data sharing. We should all be aware of the protections they offer in this regard. By understanding the solutions they offer, we’ll know which provider works best for our needs.

Before putting IoT devices under the tree, we also need to protect our home networks from hackers. Here are some helpful hints that will allow users to keep their data safe and maintain their privacy.

  1. You can’t keep gadgets safe when you’re not aware of them, so know the number of IoT devices that are on your home network. The average home has eight networked devices per person, and that number will continue to grow. Your kids count here.  Know the devices they have on the network. Most gaming systems have microphones and cameras.
  2. Use strong passwords for your phones, tablets, and other devices. Each one should be different and changed regularly.  I like to think of vanity plates I see while driving to make up my passwords. Your kids know more about technology then you think.  It is time to have ‘the talk” about passwords?
  3. Never use the default password that came with the product.  These are well-known and this is the first thing a hacker will try.
  4. IoT devices are not “set it and forget it” gadgets. Since they are on the internet, they need to be updated frequently. Enable automatic updates and multi-factor authentication.
  5. If the device has a microphone, understand how it listens and how long it stores recordings. Realize that when you ask your smart speaker to do something, that recording is saved on the internet by the company that made the device. Turn on appropriate privacy settings that disable the use of voice recording.
  6. If possible, create two password-protected Wi-Fi networks in your home. Use one for your computers, tablets, and phones. Enable the second one for your IoT devices, sharing passwords with family and friends as needed—but don’t give any devices access to your contacts.

With these tips, you’ll be prepared for the influx of smart devices in your home this holiday season.

Written by Debby Briggs, CSO at NETSCOUT