Ensuring the basics of IoT smart device security
- Smart home devices intend to provide a sense of security and comfort, but it is not possible to use them without risks
- Connected devices can be hacked into like any other website or computer, and most of them are behind poorly secured consumer-grade home routers
Welcoming the Internet of Things (IoT) to turn your home into a “smart” one also exposes you to security flaws. Smart devices, unless secured properly, can be used as new avenues of attack by cybercriminals.
Basically, all those appliances and devices that connect to the internet and to each other on a home network — have created new opportunities for cybercriminals. Specifically, home routers and security cameras are top IoT targets for hackers because, like most other connected devices, they have little or no built-in security, making them more vulnerable to malware.
A report by the University of Taxes stated that attacks on connected devices, besides computers, more than doubled compared to the months before the pandemic emerged. Experts that gathered the study believed nine out of 10 smart devices send unencrypted information across the internet. The swelling number of people working from home provides an ideal environment for hackers, who can jump from smart devices to machines that log into organizations’ networks.
Secure your router
Not many are aware but the router is perhaps the most important gadget at home — it is the foundational item that connects all connected devices and makes them operable. Consider your WiFi 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.
That said, it is best to change the WiFi password on a regular basis as it kicks off any unwelcome visitors who might be lurking. Perhaps, it is best to also keep your WiFi account private. Visitors, friends, and relatives can log into a separate network that doesn’t tie into your IoT devices.
Everyone should be using WPA2 security to guard access to their router, which essentially requires every new device to submit a password to connect. Although it is enabled by default on just about every router, it is better to be safe than sorry.
Update your devices
As we got used to updating our smartphone operating system (OS) every now and then, we may overlook the need to update the rest of your smart devices’ OS to keep it safe. This is because software updates include crucial security patches, bug fixes, and, occasionally, new features for your device that help enhance their security and run more smoothly.
Often, we might be tempted to click on that “remind me later” button, which is not wrong, but we should ensure to not put off updating the software for long.
Secure your voice assistants
For voice assistants, your wish is literally their command. Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri, Cortana, or others can do cool things like telling you the weather, order your favorite pizza, play a song, or even turn your lights off before bed. Yet, it depends on which permissions you give because voice assistants may also do things like read your emails and access your calendar and contacts.
Voice assistants might also be stand-alone smart speakers or an app on your computer, tablet, or phone. They can listen all the time, ready to be activated by a “wake up word” like “Alexa” or “OK, Google”. But they are flawed too and might mishear you — or even turn on and start listening when you least expect it.
Look for settings to mute your device so it is no longer listening when you want to be sure that sensitive information isn’t picked up. Some devices would also allow you to activate alerts that tell you when your voice assistant is actively listening.
Cybersecurity experts reckon you to review your default settings and periodically, look at your history, or even delete old recordings. Be sure to also know what’s connected to your voice assistant and use multi-factor authentication, when available.