Do you know how to protect your smart devices? Did you realize that you need to?
Smart devices are becoming increasingly common. In 2018, there were around 7 billion smart devices, but that number hit 26.66 billion just one year later. By 2021, there are expected to be 35 billion smart devices worldwide.
Since smart devices are connected to the internet, they are vulnerable to the same kinds of attacks your computer, smartphone, or tablet face. But many people don’t consider that something as small as a smart plug or lightbulb might offer hackers a way into your network.
If this sounds far-fetched, think again. Studies have shown that many of these devices are easy to hack. Jane Hu, writing for Quartz, explains that many of these devices store sensitive information, such as your wifi password, insecurely. Hackers who access a device like this can then use this information to access other devices such as your garage door or your computer.
But there is good news! There are many simple steps you can take to protect your smart devices.
Table of Contents
To Protect Your Smart Devices, Start With The Right Devices
One important step in securing your smart home is to select the right devices. Don’t buy more device than you need; in other words, buy the device with features you will actually use rather than the device with the most features. Remember, every extra feature can also be a security vulnerability.
Additionally, make sure you purchase a device that meets the correct certifications. Devices that are certified to work with Apple Homekit or Alexa must meet higher standards than those without. Purchase devices from a recognized brand and do your homework first so you’re aware of potential vulnerabilities in your specific device.
It’s important to choose a device that has undergone independent testing. Every manufacturer will tell you their device is secure, but a third party will always be more objective about how secure that device really is.
For the most secure device, choose manufacturers who are willing to encrypt user data. Then, even if hackers get through your security, they will not be able to use any personal data they access. You also won’t have to worry about a giant corporation selling your personal data.
Manage Your Hardware
By the time most people get their smart devices set up, they’re ready to set them and forget them. Don’t be that person. Firmware, the software that controls your device, needs to be updated regularly. These updates are important for fixing security issues that may have been found in your device or pushing new features to replace old, less secure ones.
Before you get rid of old devices, be sure that you perform a factory reset. This will delete all of your personal data from the device, ensuring that no one can pull your data from it or plug it in and use it to access your network.
Be careful of portable smart accessories like remotes that can be used to access your smart devices when away from home. Keep such devices attached to your keychain, on a lanyard, or in an inner pocket so you do not lose them. If you do, contact your device manufacturer immediately to get the device deactivated.
If you really want to protect your smart devices, you can add a device like Firewalla or Bitdefender Box 2 to your network. These tools will block external access to your smart devices and monitor which devices are accessing your network.
Secure Your Wifi Network
To truly protect your smart devices, you first have to protect your home wifi network. If you’re not sure how to do that, there’s an app for that! (Not really, but we do have a blog post that will give you the low down.)
One important step is to create a guest network just for your smart devices. Having your smart devices on a separate network from your laptop, phone, and tablet will prevent someone from using your smart lawn sprinkler to access your banking info on your PC.
Make sure you reset the default username and password on your router and enable any security protections like firewalls. And just like with your smart devices themselves, keep your router’s firmware up-to-date. If you use a device like a phone or computer to access your smart devices, make sure that device is adequately protected with active firewalls and/or antivirus software.
Disable any unnecessary functions on your smart device. Every function a smart device offers is also a vulnerability, so by disabling unnecessary functions you are limiting access points for hackers.
Finally, don’t access your smart devices from public wifi. You never know who’s around in your favorite coffee shop and whether they might be tracking your online activity. (Sure, Chris J. looks like a benign hipster in his Castro cap and Che Guevara t-shirt, but every barista needs a side hustle.) If you must access smart devices while out and about, use your phone plan data because it’s much more secure.
Use Good Passwords
It’s a fundamental of good cybersecurity, but because most Americans are really bad about it, I’ll repeat myself again—use good passwords.
By “good” passwords, I mean long (between 6 and 8 characters), with capital and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. Make sure you use a different password for each smart device on your network so that you limit a hacker’s ability to move from device to device. If (like most of us) you haven’t been able to remember anything since you started saving numbers in your first cell phone, then find a password manager you like. And whatever you do, never use the default password that comes with your device since default passwords are publicly available online.
Finally, enable two-factor authentication (2FA) wherever you can. This will require a second, separate password or code each time someone wants to access your device. While it seems like a small change, enabling 2FA can block 99.99% of hacking attempts, so it’s important. If you find it makes accessing your devices tedious, try using an authenticator app to simplify things.
Use Cybersecurity Basics To Protect Your Smart Devices
When you get down to it, the basic rules of cybersecurity are the same whether you’re protecting the laptop you bought eight years ago or the smart speaker you bought yesterday. Take advantage of the free protections like firewalls and 2FA that are built into many devices. Maintain the devices you have by updating them and customizing your settings. It may not be exciting, but simple steps like this can go a long way toward keeping you safe.
Most importantly, don’t trade security for convenience. As Eric Trabold of Nexkey, Inc. explains,
“I worked on both sides of the story: in a security software company and in a company creating a wearable [smart] device for consumers. In my personal experience and through watching my friends and family using [smart] devices I saw one concerning pattern repeating itself over and over again: Convenience won over security—as soon as a device provided a lot of value, security got forgotten.”10 Smart Ways To Secure Your Smart Devices Against Hacks – Forbes
It’s not just your home’s smart devices that need to be secure. Cybersecurity is one of the most important concerns for businesses operating in today’s market. 60% of companies go out of business within six months of a large data loss incident; 72% of those companies will close within 24 months of the incident.
Trust your company’s security to TracSoft. We’ve been providing top-notch cybersecurity to businesses in Columbus, GA and beyond for over 20 years. We understand the threats your business faces—and how to stop them. Contact us today for a free security audit and we’ll discuss a custom security plan to fit your company’s specific needs.