Keeping the Virtual Door Locked: How to Secure Your Smart Home

Between 12 and 16% of Americans own a smart device for the home. And the use of smart home technology will only increase.

Smart home technology improves the functionality of your home products and even offers other benefits such as energy efficiency.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t guarantee your smart home is secure. Your home products and tech are vulnerable to hackers.

Before making the investment, you need to learn how to secure your smart home.

About Your Smart Devices and IoT

What makes your smart devices so smart? They’re all run by the Internet of Things (IoT). IoT connects these devices through computing, enabling them to send and receive data.

All of your devices are connected to the same network through IoT. This is what allows your devices to take on more roles through the digital landscape. Unfortunately, this also leaves your devices vulnerable to hackers.

Why Smart Home Technology Can Be Risky

If hackers are after you — whether it be your data or your sensitive financial information — they can access your information through your devices.

For example, if you have an alarm system that’s accessible through an app, a hacker can access your alarm system’s information. The data they can steal includes your address and your passwords.

Let’s say burglars want to break into your home. They can remotely control your alarm system, disabling it for their break-in. From here, they can find a way into your home without worrying about security cameras or the alarm catching them.

Your alarm system isn’t the only way hackers can access your information.

Everything from Alexa, your smart refrigerator and your smart thermostat can provide information such as when you’re home and the activities you do while at home.

Two Real-World Examples of Hacked Smart Home Technology

Don’t think it could happen to you? Think again. Smart home tech hackings have happened before. Here are some examples to know.

Mirai

An example of a common attack is the use of botnets.

Botnets use smaller-scale attacks; however, the attacks are done at once and attack several different pieces of tech and software. The result is a large scale cyberattack that can be done on both a local and global scale.

Take Mirai as an example. In 2016, thousands of devices and cloud software were pulled into a botnet called Mirai. This caused major programs such as Netflix and Spotify to shut down as well as leaving the Internet inaccessible.

Mirai first acted locally but quickly expanded on a national scale, affecting many who use the Internet and entertainment platforms on the east coast of the U.S.

The goal of Mirai wasn’t to do the users harm; however, it did infiltrate the users’ systems to affect the Web.

VPNFilter Malware

In 2018, malicious software called VPNFilter Malware infiltrated half a million routers in over 50 countries. The malware left all of these routers inaccessible because it blocked communication with the network as a whole.

This type of malware also stole sensitive information such as passwords.

Today, we can better protect devices against VPNFilter Malware. But that doesn’t mean hackers can’t come up with another type of malware or another way to infiltrate your routers.

How to Secure Your Smart Home

Fortunately, there are actions you can take to safeguard your home from hackers. Here are a few tips to know.

Use Strong Encryption for Your WiFi

Millions of home WiFi networks are at risk of being hacked. This is why it’s recommended to use strong encryption for your WiFi. Experts recommend you use WPA2 when you set up your WiFi network.

Of course, you should also come up with a powerful password and to be careful with who you’re sharing it with.

Personalize Your WiFi Name

Most homeowners use the WiFi name the manufacturer provides. However, this isn’t a smart idea. Hackers will easily identify your personal WiFi network and may give away the make and model of your router.

However, you also don’t want to give your WiFi address a common name, such as “Bill’s Internet.”

Give your WiFi an unusual name.

Most homeowners use a celebrity or historical name, a personal interest, an inside joke, and a song or film title. You can also use a combination of letters, numbers, and characters (be sure to write it down so you don’t forget).

Always remember: never use your name, a family member’s name, or your street address in your WiFi name.

Keep Your Home Account Private

Even though your WiFi account is likely password-protected, it’s still public. You can set your home WiFi private, making your data invisible to everyone else.

What should you do about guests? You can set up a separate public WiFi network and only keep your home devices hooked up to the private network.

Change Your Device Settings to Private

Your smart home devices may have default settings at the public level. If you can change them, set the settings to private.

Always Update Your Software

It’s easy to hold off from installing a software update, especially for your home devices. Many software updates come with enhanced security. Software updates may also fix any vulnerabilities in the current software.

You’ll also want to update any devices connected to the smart home technology. For example, if your home security system is connected to an app on your phone, keep your phone and the app updated.

Disable Unused Features

Do you use all of the features offered on your devices? Disable the ones you don’t use. Keeping some features active can cause security vulnerabilities.

For example, enabling remote access can make it easier for hackers to access your system. If you don’t need remote access, disable this feature.

Always Use Two-Step Authentication

Do you try and sign in to one of your cloud accounts and are given a code to enter? This is two-step authentication. This security setting forces the user to go through two steps before signing in.

The most common example is the one-time code. You first enter a password and then a code is sent to either your phone or your email. You enter the code to access your account.

Always enable two-step verification when you sign in to your home devices. This is another security advantage that can keep out the bad guys. You’ll ensure a code or anything else is sent to your device and is seen by your eyes only.

Upgrade Your Tech

The best way to ensure your tech can block out a hacker is by only investing in the latest tech. Only buy the newest devices and make it a point to constantly update any devices.

In addition to using the newest tech, only buy your devices from reputable brands. Reputable brands have the trusted infrastructure and a savvy cybersecurity team to ensure your devices offer the most security.

Reputable companies are usually the first to discover any loopholes in their system and will quickly employ an update.

If there’s a recently discovered hacking technique, malware, or another attack, reputable companies are usually the first to hear about the attack and will inform their customers.

Act When a Power Outage Hits

If a power outage hits, check your devices immediately when the power kicks back on.

First, just because the power is back on doesn’t mean your devices are working. Always check each device and make sure they’re up and running.

Most importantly, a power outage can reset your settings and make your devices more vulnerable. Reset your devices back to the most private and secure settings after a power outage.

Last but not least, a power outage could be the result of a hacked network. Keep an eye out for additional symptoms including a slow network, data or information you didn’t authorize, programs crashing, and other unexplained activity.

Reset Your Tech Before Reselling It

If you upgrade your tech, what do you do with the old tech? Many homeowners sell their old smart home devices. However, be sure to reset everything before reselling it.

Delete any information on your device. Remove any pre-saved passwords, including the password saved on your WiFi network. It’s also a good idea to fully reset the device back to its original settings.

What if you’re not selling your tech? Even if you recycle it, you should still delete and reset this information.

Aren’t able to reset the device? There’s only one solution — smash the tech to pieces before recycling or disposing of the device.

Read the Gadget’s Terms and Conditions

Preventing a cyberattack isn’t the only way to act on security. What if you’re the victim of a cyberattack? How will the manufacturer support you, if they even offer support for attacks?

Before signing or agreeing to anything, always read the device’s terms and conditions. If the contract states nothing about cyberattacks, inquire directly with the manufacturer.

You should also research other security topics associated with the brand and the device, including where your data is stored. This will help you better protect your device and your information.

Stay Up-to-Date On Cybersecurity

You don’t have to be a tech wizard to stay updated on the latest news in cybersecurity. Research new ways hackers can infiltrate your systems. Educate yourself on recent hacking stories.

Not all smart home devices are secure. Before investing in a smart home device, do your research. Make sure there were no recalls, complaints, or other security issues with the device.

Current hacking news isn’t the only way to stay updated. Always research new devices, new ways to protect your devices, and other security products that can further prevent an attack.

If your devices require an update, research the ways the updates further secures your device.

Mute Microphones and Turn Off Cameras

Don’t like the idea of someone watching or listening to you? If you own cameras and microphones in your home, a hacker can easily access these devices and see you or hear your conversation.

Keep the cameras and microphones turned on when necessary; for example, when you’re sleeping or not home. But if the house is filled with people, there’s no reason to keep your camera and microphone turned on.

Off and mute buttons are difficult to bypass, even for savvy hackers. While they don’t fully secure your home, they do protect against a potential security breach.

This is good advice for all devices. Aren’t comfortable with a device constantly in use? Turn it off or unplug it.

How the Smart Home Technology Market Is Changing

Now more than ever, hackers are attacking your smart home devices. With the two attacks mentioned previously as examples, there’s lots of pressure to secure smart home technology.

More manufacturers are enabling secure features mentioned previously, such as two-step verification. Security audits are also becoming more popular, ensuring a device is tried and tested before it’s released into the market.

While this will give any consumer piece of mind, it’s still best to take control of your security. Always create powerful passwords, keep your devices and WiFi on private, and always act if you suspect anything suspicious.

Use Added Security Toward Your Smart Home Technology

Technology is advancing at a rapid pace.

Smart home technology constantly undergoes changes and innovations. But one fact doesn’t change: your smart home technology is vulnerable to a cyberattack. Because of this, you need to know how to secure your smart home.

Always invest in the latest tech and the most reputable brands, keep your devices updated, and use the most powerful passwords. You should also use a separate WiFi network for your gadgets and stay updated on the latest cybersecurity news.

Are you on the hunt for smart home safety features? Keep your family safe with smart home cameras. Check out our recommendations.

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