Home routers and security cameras are top IoT targets for hackers. Why? Because — like most other connected devices — they have little or no built-in security. That makes them vulnerable to malware.
And there’s another reason. Security usually isn’t a top priority for IoT device makers. Their poor security practices could include these:
- No system hardening, which gives a computer system various means of protection and makes it more secure.
- No mechanism for updating software, which can create vulnerabilities.
- Default or hardcoded passwords, which hackers can exploit.
Consider your Wi-Fi router the “front door” to your smart home. Like any front door, it should be solid and equipped with strong locks, in case cybercriminals come knocking.
Building a more secure smart home starts with your Wi-Fi router. It’s the foundational item that connects all your connected devices and makes them operable.
Most people simply use the router provided by their internet service provider, but a lot of independent companies also sell routers.
Once you move to a secure router, it’s a good idea to research the smart devices you might want. Privacy and security are important. Here are some questions to ask:
- What are the privacy policies?
- Will the provider store your data or sell it to a third party?
- How are updates enabled?
Here are some other ways to help secure your smart home.
12 tips to make your smart home more secure
1. Give your router a name.
Don’t stick with the name the manufacturer gave it — it might identify the make or model. Give it an unusual name not associated with you or your street address. You don’t want your router name to give away any personal identifiers.
2. Use a strong encryption method for Wi-Fi.
In your router settings, it’s a good idea to use a strong encryption method, like WPA2, when you set up Wi-Fi network access. This will help keep your network and communications secure.
3. Set up a guest network.
Keep your Wi-Fi account private. Visitors, friends and relatives can log into a separate network that doesn’t tie into your IoT devices.
4. Change default usernames and passwords.
Cybercriminals probably already know the default passwords that come with many IoT products. That makes it easy for them to access your IoT devices and, potentially, the information on them. Are you considering a device that doesn’t allow you to change the default password? Then consider a different one.
5. Use strong, unique passwords for Wi-Fi networks and device accounts.
Avoid common words or passwords that are easy to guess, such as “password” or “123456.” Instead, use unique, complex passwords made up of letters, numbers, and symbols. You might also consider a password manager to up your security game.
6. Check the setting for your devices.
Your IoT devices might come with default privacy and security settings. You might want to consider changing them, as some default settings could benefit the manufacturer more than they benefit you.
7. Disable features you may not need.
IoT devices come with a variety of services such as remote access, often enabled by default.
If you don’t need it, be sure to disable it.
8. Keep your software up to date.
When your smart phone manufacturer sends you a software update, don’t put off installing it. It might be a patch for a security flaw. Mobile security is important, since you may connect to your smart home through mobile devices. Your IoT device makers also may sent you updates — or you might have to visit their websites to check for them. Be sure to download updates and apply them to your device to help stay safe.
9. Audit the IoT devices already on your home network.
It could be time to upgrade that old security camera. Take time to check if newer models might offer stronger security.
10. Do the two-step.
We’re talking authentication. Two-factor authentication — such as a one-time code sent to your cellphone — can keep the bad guys out of your accounts. If your smart-device apps offer two-factor authentication, or 2FA, use it.
11. Avoid public Wi-Fi networks.
You might want to manage your IoT devices through your mobile device in a coffee shop across town. If you’re on public Wi-Fi — generally not a good idea — use a VPN.
12. Watch out for outages.
Ensure that a hardware outage does not result in an unsecure state for the device.
No doubt more IoT devices are coming and will angle for a place in your home. If they make your life more convenient — even happier — great. But don’t forget to secure your increasingly smart home and your IoT devices.