How to Protect Yourself from Hackers

Bought a new smart doorbell or thermostat?

That’s great but can hackers can break into it? Do you know how to protect yourself from hackers?

Everything connected to the Internet, from smart IoT devices to your phone, are susceptible to hackers. Fortunately, warding them off doesn’t require a degree in computer science!

Don’t fret, we’ll walk you through the most crucial steps. Read on to learn how to prevent hacking and boost your security measures:

1. Encrypt Your Wi-Fi Router

We’re going to tackle encryption on individual devices a bit more in-depth later on but you should start with your Wi-Fi router. This device connects to all your laptops, smartphones, and IoT devices. This makes it the most vulnerable device in your home and it could be a hacker’s gateway to access your other devices.

You can’t access your router’s settings on the device. You have to use a browser on a laptop or smartphone to access its main system menu.

The exact address changes from router to router. If you have a Linksys router, for example, you can access the menu by typing 192.168.1.1 on the browser. Belkin routers, on the other hand, access their system menu via 192.168.2.1.

You can also find the exact address by using the Command Prompt and typing “ipconfig” in the command window.

While their menu options look different, your goal is to reach the WPA security systems. Go to the passphrase or password options and encryption. Some might have a toggle for password and data transferring encryption.

Keep note of this process: this is also where you should go to change the password for your Wi-Fi. If you still use something such as “password1” or “12345678” as your Wi-Fi password, now is the time to change it out. These are some of the most commonly hacked passwords!

Don’t worry, we’ve got a section below tackling passwords and how to come up with something more secure.

2. Update All IoT Smart Devices

Do you own several Internet of Things (IoT) devices, like a smart bulb or security camera? Do you have a smart lock installed on the door and an Amazon Echo Dot to command these devices?

These are all susceptible to hacking too. An incident involving a hacker known only as LimitedResults managed to break into a person’s Wi-Fi system and get their credentials by first hacking their smart bulb.

Reports involving the incident stated that the smart device had no encryption enabled. This means your data, such as passwords and other credentials connected to your IoT devices, are vulnerable to hackers.

The good news is that there is a solution. Simply update your IoT devices to enable encryption or replace the old ones with products that feature data encryption options. These devices are always online anyway so take time to keep them updated.

Not sure if your device can update via Wi-Fi? Look at the device manual and check if they can connect to your computer via USB cable. Some devices require wired connections to update and you’ll have to download the updated files before you can transfer and run them on the device.

You should replace smart devices that can’t update or allow you to change how they handle data. You should have the option to keep data encrypted and change passwords as often as needed.

3. Use Complex Passwords

How easy is it to remember your password? The easier it is to memorize, the easier it is to hack. Also, short passwords are prone to hacking as well.

Don’t use passwords that use the following information:

  • Your name
  • Birthdays
  • Birthplace
  • Pet’s name
  • Spouse or children’s names

You should also avoid passwords that use a string of successive key trokes. This means you shouldn’t use passwords like “qwerty” or “123qwe” because the keys are all bunched together.

Use complex passwords instead. You should try a password that simultaneously uses capital letters, lower case letters, numbers, and special characters. Not all routers, devices, and websites allow special characters but you should be able to make a password using a combination of the other options.

If you want to get even more technical, try to use an ASCII password. These are far more complicated and require a bit of decoding. The exclamation mark, for example, translates to “!” in ASCII.

Worried you won’t remember all these complex passwords? Use a password manager. This store all your passwords in one location, protected through encryption, and they can generate new complex passwords for you too.

One more thing to remember: always change your passwords every few weeks. That might sound like a hassle but it ensures hackers can’t break into your system. If they manage to get a password, it won’t do them any good if you’re going to change everything and reset their efforts.

4. Download and Use a VPN Tool

Using a browser’s incognito mode might seem like a safe way to protect your home and accounts from hacking but that’s not the case. Going incognito only hides your browsing history and erases form data but hackers can still spot you and access your information.

The proper tool to avoid hackers is a VPN (a virtual private network). These create a “fake” network that the system can protect via encryption and other security features.

A VPN also masks your location by providing a different IP address. You could still be in the US but any hacker or data-collecting website will identify you as a user in the UK, Asia, or other places of your choice.

Don’t worry if you’ve never used a VPN before. Most VPN providers offer free trials. You can also find endorsers like YouTube celebrities who offer promo codes and discount vouchers for VPN subscriptions. You should give it a try and then pay for a VPN that suits your needs.

However, you can’t rely on a VPN for total security. Hackers could still find a way to access the VPN provider’s network.

Using a VPN is a crucial step to ward off hackers but you should use it tandem with the other tips listed here.

Want another incentive to use a VPN? They mask your browsing activity better than a browser’s incognito, which means you can search for flight tickets or products on Amazon without advertising algorithms anticipating your next login. This means you can find genuinely low prices instead of getting bombarded by ads trying to rob you of cash.

VPNs also enable you to view Netflix as seen in other countries. Do you want to watch a show only available in Netflix UK or Asia? Use a VPN and you can unlock that version of Netflix and its library of movies and shows.

5. Take Advantage of Biometric Security

Most IoT devices, like smart leak detectors and lightbulbs, have options for biometric security. Your smartphone and some laptops feature biometric options as well. Don’t sleep on these options!

Yes, using a password on your devices and Wi-Fi is important but you should also take advantage of face recognition and fingerprint scanners. Some devices also use iris scanners.

Biometric security measures are great because there’s almost no chance of someone else having the same face and fingerprints as yours. They’re also a great back-up option in case you forgot your password or PIN codes.

In light of using biometric measures, make sure to add them as part of a two-step verification process. Two-step verification means you need to enter the password or biometric scan in one device and then confirm the login on another device. This multi-step verification process ensures hackers can’t access your data even if they get one of your passwords or fingerprint.

Are there downsides to biometric security? Some claim they aren’t as secure as traditional passwords. The real caveat is that you can’t change your face or fingerprint as quickly as you can a password.

If you feel nervous about relying on biometric security, don’t use it as a sole safety measure. Use it together with passwords to strengthen your wall against hackers.

6. Enable Anti-Malware and Anti-Spam

One of the ways hackers break into your accounts or access your IoT smart devices is through malware and spam. Why try to figure out your password when they can let a virus do the work for them? If you click on malware and let it run rampant on your computer, they could grant hackers access to your network without you even knowing about it.

How do hackers use malware?

Malware, which includes traditional viruses, replicate and spread across your computer. This means they could infect every folder with sensitive, private data. Hackers then use the infected folders as a means to intercept your connection to Internet servers, like unseen middlemen between you and the Internet.

As the middlemen, they see everything you do and type before it reaches the destination servers. If you type in your name, credit card information, and passwords then the hacker gets to see them too. Now they can use your bank information, unlock your smart door locks, and more.

The best solution is to use anti-malware and anti-spam software. They’re not always cheap but spending on protection is better and more affordable than spending on damages caused through identity theft.

Make it a habit to avoid downloading anything suspicious. Screen any pop-up ads and make sure your email service has some sort of malware/spam detection enabled too.

7. Careful with the Cloud

Do you store files on cloud services like iCloud or Google Drive? That’s fine and they do offer security features but you should still practice caution. Don’t upload any private information on the cloud, particularly bank details and passwords.

You might know how to protect yourself from hackers but some cloud services don’t put in the same level of effort. They might not update their security measures as often as you do. Even those that do can still get under attack by expert hackers.

Don’t think it can happen? A few years back hackers managed to break into Apple’s iCloud and leaked dozens of celebrity photos. Many of these were private, nude photos.

Never upload your Wi-Fi router password to the cloud! If a hacker managed to break in, they could use that password to unlock your smart devices, steal your information, and even break into your home by disabling your smart security products.

What can you upload on the cloud? You should only upload “generally safe” things like public photos you post on Facebook or Instagram, documents for school or eBooks.

In line with the tips above, you should also practice using better passwords with your cloud account. Make it a habit to change your passwords regularly too, ensuring hackers can’t pick up on your habits.

Learn How to Protect Yourself From Hackers!

Learning how to protect yourself from hackers isn’t as complicated as some might assume. It’s more about practicing basic vigilance and taking advantage of today’s technology to stay safe. Follow these tips and you’ll be on the right track!

You shouldn’t forget about your other devices too — a hacker could break into your home or accounts by first hacking through your smart light or doorbell. Make sure you secure everything connected to your Internet.

But learning about smart devices and a connected home doesn’t end here. Feel free to check out more of our posts today to discover other great tips and guides! Here’s one that teaches how to build a smart home from the ground up.

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