The IoT made smart homes a reality for many. However, anything that connects to the internet is hackable.
In 2021, smart homes in the UK faced 12,000 hack attacks weekly, and an alarming 35% of US homes suffered a breach. This number is expected to increase by 21% annually, equating to 174,000 annual incidents and a 42% incidence rate in 2023.
Are you confident your smart home is 100% secure? Or do you worry about being hacked through a single, vulnerable device used as a door into your home?
There are things you can do to protect yourself and your family now from intrusions and dangers in 2023.
Ways to secure your smart devices and home
Tip #1: Get to know your Smart Devices
To effectively protect your home and privacy, you need to:
- Identify which devices are connected to or can connect to the internet.
- Assess what security features they have or are available.
- Look at the interconnectedness between devices.
These smart devices form a system. If one is vulnerable and attacked, the others may become affected or infected too. You need to protect all the members of your smart device network.
Tip #2: Balance your real needs against risk
It’s easy to fall in love with the awesome range of gadgets that are available to make our lives easier and more fun. Whether it’s a smart lock, thermostat, door camera, or smart lighting, weigh the convenience against any potential threats to your privacy.
Is it okay to have your personal assistant listening 24/7? Could cameras be turned on you rather than being a watchful, protective presence? Ask yourself:
- Do I really need this device? If not, don’t buy it.
- Are there features on my devices I don’t need or use? If so, disable them.
The objective is to limit potential entry points into your home.
Tip #3: Only purchase smart home devices from reputable brands
The state of the global economy in 2023 is being felt by many people and, as a result, the temptation to buy the cheapest product can be strong. Although even tech brand names can be hacked, they are far more likely to have taken steps to protect the device (and their reputation).
These security measures often include regular software and security updates and clearly stated privacy policies.
Tip #4: Secure your Wi-Fi Network
The first area of Wi-Fi and Network security for your home in 2023 is setting up your router correctly. After all, the router is the digital gateway to your home so it must be secure. Routers are sold with default settings, including a password.
Using the provided manual and/or the manufacturer’s website, you need to:
- Change the router’s default name (and don’t use the word “router”).
- Create a unique, strong password for your Wi-Fi network.
- Select WPA2 encryption from the settings.
- Get a free VPN trial from a reputable provider and check how it can protect your Wi-Fi network.
- Enable the available firewall.
- Find out from your service provider/router manufacturer how to perform security updates.
Simply relying on default settings and passwords makes it much easier for hackers to gain access to your devices and home. You need to take a more active and proactive role.
Tip #5: Secure each smart home device
Once your router and network are secure, it’s time to turn your attention to the individual smart devices in your home. There’s no getting around the fact that this takes time initially, but the investment is well worth it.
- Many smart devices are controlled via a connected app, and you will need to set up an account for each one.
- Each device/account requires a unique password so that if one is breached, the others are still protected. You could use a password manager to help to generate and ‘remember’ them all for you.
- Set the highest available privacy and security settings on each of your devices and disable remote access until or unless you require it.
- You could also enable two- or multi-factor authentication as an additional layer of protection. This makes it harder for a hacker as they would need the login, password, and authentication code.
Once these safeguards are in place, it’s still important to perform maintenance as discussed below.
Tip #6: Regularly update your devices
Low-level software, called firmware, powers routers and most smart gadgets. The suppliers will roll out new features and bug fixes via the internet.
If the device is connected, it should receive these. A way to increase the chance of receiving all of these valuable changes and updates is by registering your smart device with the manufacturer when you buy it.
Other devices require you to select that you want to receive security patches, etc., and you are strongly advised to opt in so you are not open to attack because of unpatched vulnerabilities.
Although you could select automatic updates, there is a potential danger of receiving downloads from third parties, including potentially malicious or criminal ones. Alternatively, check for updates regularly as part of your online hygiene practices and use the updates as soon as you get them.
Tip #7: Split the network
A further layer of security can be achieved by setting up a secondary or “guest” network. One should be home to devices such as laptops that house sensitive information.
The other is for devices that don’t house or allow access to personal data. In other words, if someone hacks into an unsecured device such as a smart Christmas tree or your fridge, they can’t also get into your computer files.
Smart homes are vulnerable because the devices that make them that way are connected to the internet. They are at risk of being hacked, accessed, and – in the worst scenarios – controlled from outside by third parties.
Because these devices have little inbuilt security, it’s up to you to create it by implementing these seven steps. If you do, you are far less likely to have your home invaded by hackers who are intent on theft or mischief.
As smart houses and cybercrime continue to proliferate in 2023, the need to be proactive when it comes to security is high.