Mitigating the Risks of Smart Home Technology
Thanks to the Internet of Things (IoT), smart home technology is becoming ubiquitous. More and more devices are being connected to the Internet to interact, collaborate, and exchange information.
These days, homeowners can control their heating and cooling, lighting, smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, kitchen appliances, security systems, entertainment systems, outdoor irrigation systems, water heaters, window coverings, garage doors, and door locks.
Smart home technology offers incredible convenience, but also entails risks, especially if it is not installed and properly connected.
Last December, the news media reported on and showed video of hackers accessing a number of homeowners’ smart home security systems. To avoid nefarious individuals from gaining access to your connected home devices, identity protection company, IDShield offered advice, especially with regard to doorbell cameras and smart home assistants, which are often given as gifts during the holidays.
Research Security Features
Every device includes different security features. Some have significant data encryption technology while others are lacking. Be sure to do your researching before purchasing. Also, many units come preprogrammed with a default password that homeowners either forget to or decide not to change.
All smart home devices require admission to your home’s WiFi network. Before allowing a new device to join, review what other devices already have access. If there are some that you don’t recognize, revoke access to ensure no one is attempting to “piggyback” on your network and other smart devices, like that doorbell cam.
Keys to the Backdoor
As we mentioned earlier, there are a multitude of smart appliances and devices that are WiFi enabled. It is wise to do a thorough investigation of your residence to determine what offers this capability.
Any technology that can connect to WiFi offers a “key to the backdoor,” which can be compromised and used to eavesdrop on your home, its inhabitants, and the full range of your entire network.
The Importance of Passwords
Always change any default passwords and use a unique one for each smart device. Don’t reuse passwords once they’ve been used previously. It is also strongly recommended to change passwords frequently.
Set up a separate email that is used only for your smart home network. If hackers do gain access, they won’t have your personal or work email, hopefully limiting the damage they can do to your extended digital life.
Multiple Layers of Security
Having multiple layers of defense against would-be digital intruders is paramount. First and foremost, make sure your router is capable of handling several devices. If your router is older, it may be worth an upgrade. No router can provide an iron-clad security guarantee and IDShield warns against falling for such manufacturer claims.
Mesh WiFi systems, also called Whole Home WiFi systems, include a primary router connected directly to the modem, and a series of satellite “nodes” placed strategically around your home to offer complete WiFi coverage. PC Magazine has a list of their top picks, which is a good place to begin.
Four Secure Things to Keep in Mind
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has four items to keep in mind when shopping for smart devices.
- Is security designed into the system, or was it an add-on or afterthought?
- Make sure all installed devices encrypt data.
- Secure both sides of every device that is connected to your network.
- Remember-not everyone in your household needs complete access; limiting it reduces potential exposure.
Smart home devices, especially those doorbell cameras and other security systems, should have two-factor authentication (2FA). Using 2FA in conjunction with separate passwords for each smart device is yet another layer of added security.
When the manufacturer offers an update, download it to the relevant device right away. These updates not only keep the device working properly, but they often include enhancements to security.
Since they are all different, understand how each device is updated. Do they update automatically? Do you as the user have to initiate the update? Will the device need to be rebooted after the new software is installed?
Know Data Storage Ins and Outs
Before installation, understand what type of information each smart home device stores, how it can be accessed, and if it can be erased.
Connection speed is at its peak when every family member is home and multiple devices are in use. This means that every device is competing for bandwith. Set your personal smart phone as the priority unit on your network to ensure you get the best connection and to guarantee you receive alerts from your security smart systems.
Consider the Necessity
The final step is to seriously consider which smart home technology is truly a necessity. Some people desire a completely connected home and have the technical wherewithal to set up and maintain a secure system. Others are much less inclined to update or take the time to understand how each device functions. It is safer to avoid installing devices that you have no need for, or won’t properly maintain, as they can end up being the “crack” that leads to a breach in your privacy.