How to make your home internet devices more secure
The world may not be getting smarter, but our devices sure are. Every day brings a new set of smart devices, from heating and cooling systems that can be controlled from our smartphones to wired refrigerators that can replenish their own milk.
These smart devices can make your life easier, but what about privacy and security? Unfortunately, the manufacturers of these smart devices have long treated security as a mere afterthought, and that has opened up a huge window for hackers and other cybercriminals.
Device manufacturers are becoming smarter about security, but in the meantime, the owners of these devices need to take charge of their own cyber safety. Whether you own a single smart device or a whole house full of them, you need to take your security seriously and do everything in your power to protect it.
Here are three critical steps you should take to keep your personal Internet of Things (IoT) safer and more secure.
Step 1 – Assess your needs
Before you welcome any new device into your home, ask yourself if it really needs to be smart. For some devices, wireless connectivity and smart technology make perfect sense, but for others the advantages are much more dubious.
Having a smart TV makes sense, especially if you love to binge on Netflix or stream videos from your phone. A smart thermometer can keep your home comfortable while slashing your heating and cooling costs.
A smart toaster or microwave, on the other hand, could be harder to justify. Do you really need internet connectivity to make a piece of toast or heat up last night’s leftovers? If you cannot justify buying a smart device, a dumb one will probably work just as well – and pose a much lower security risk.
Step 2 – Avoid the default
The biggest security hole in most smart devices is their weak passwords. In some cases, the passwords are left blank. While other manufacturers assign a default password that is as close as a simple web search. Any hacker worth their salt can find those credentials and take control of your new smart toaster or TV.
Before you plug your new smart device into the network or even turn it on, you should immediately change the default credentials. If the manual or documentation does not tell you how to do that, check with the manufacturer before going any further. Be sure the passwords you create are strong, and that they are unique. Use the same password strategy for your IoT devices as you do for your laptop, desktop and other computer equipment.
Step 3 – Break up your network
After you have assessed your need for a smart device and changed the default credentials, there is one more security step you can take. Breaking up your home Wi-Fi network into two or more segments can boost your security and keep an unsecured or compromised device from becoming a huge problem.
By segmenting your network, you can keep your smart devices, which may not have the best security in the world, from your sensitive network files and user data. This network segmentation is not a silver bullet, but it can be a big security boost.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is here to stay, with billions of connected devices already in use and billions more to come. If you want to enjoy the great things this new wired world can provide without putting your privacy at risk, you need to take a proactive approach to security. Whether IoT device manufacturers take the lead or lag behind, there are things you can do to protect yourself, starting with the three steps listed above.