We are in the age of the smart home. There are a variety of devices, appliances and apps that integrate to make your house operate smoother. While the Internet of Things (IoT) brings comfort, convenience and efficiency to your home, it also creates new vulnerabilities that hackers can exploit.
And let’s face it … no one leaves their front door open when they leave the house … so why leave your smart home unsecured? Once they compromise a home’s network, hackers can gain access to IP cameras to check if a homeowner is home, control smart locks to gain entry to the front door, check a homeowner’s daily routines and schedules, and steal personal information like pin numbers and passwords from Roku devices and Amazon Echo.
Consider these six tips for keeping hackers at bay.
1. Secure your wireless network
Give your wi-fi non-friendly password and change it frequently AND disable the guest network entirely. Your wi-fi name (also known as the service set identifier, or SSID) is broadcast for the whole world to see. This should be immediately changed. Likewise, protect your generically nicknamed router and password immediately. Since the usernames for routers are universally generic, not changing that information is an open door for hackers.
It’s also a good idea to rotate the the SSID(s) on the network. If someone previously had access or was trying to gain access to use your bandwidth, they’ll get shut out by making this regular change. If you have encryption, it won’t be necessary, but remember if you routinely change the SSID and don’t broadcast its name, you will need to remember the new name and reconnect all your smart home devices, plus computers, phones, tablets, etc. .
2. Use trusted device brands that include solid security features
This is where a consumer needs to do their homework. You might think that manufacturers make smart home devices that will already have built-in protections for their owners with a platform service that is impenetrable. Look over the specs of your device. Has the manufacturer adequately addressed what information is being shared and how it is being secured on their own platform? The fact is, no device is “hacker-proof.” If a manufacturer makes that claim, look deeper. Investing in quality smart home devices is just that – an investment. Look for devices and services that utilize password encryption. Don’t be duped by “bargain basement” pricing when it comes to your home devices as you are probably just asking for online security and potential hacker problems. Look for reputable brands that have solid and excellent security features and respectable online reviews.
3. Change usernames and password often
Changing your username and password for your devices and the network they are on can be a pain or even a bit time-consuming. However, consider the time, aggravation and investment that you could potentially lose if somebody hacked your system or physically breached your home. It pays to change your usernames and passwords to ensure that in the event that your information somehow found its way to the dark web or to hackers, they wouldn’t have it for long. Come up with a system that works for you and make sure it is not simple. Utilize lowercase and uppercase letters, numbers and symbols for usernames and passwords and utilize different passwords for devices and systems. Don’t make them easily identifiable to a particular person or specific place that might identify a home or its address, and consider changing them every few months. Be selective with password hints and consider using a password management tool.
4. Use multi-layer authentication
To further protect your devices and information, consider using another level of authentication. This might be a code that you receive on your cell phone or a certain security key. If a security code is needed that only you can access via your smartphone, it’s just another layer to help ensure your information and devices stay safe and cannot be controlled from outside sources. There are apps and even websites that offer this valuable two-step authentication. So, in the event that a hacker gets your username or password, they wouldn’t have that “second step” necessary to gain access to your devices and information. Other steps of authentication that are becoming increasingly available include eye-scan technology and thumbprint readers.
5. Stay current with app updates
Keep all your apps up-to-date. Your apps contain all kinds of information and updates that will keep your devices running and peak performance while correcting any “bugs” or replacing outdated features with newer ones. This will also allow your device to communicate with optimal performance.
6. Invest in enterprise-level security
With the rise of internet-connected devices on our home network … including smart lighting systems, smart TVs, smart thermostats and streaming devices … consumers need to take steps to protect their connected homes. According to Dr. Ben Keylor, a security expert and one of the founders of Akita (www.getakita.co), the implementation of a smart firewall that attaches to a router is a wise investment. These IoT security devices monitor network traffic for any irregular activity and blocks connections to potentially harmful sites. If suspicious activity is found, the device will immediately stop a hacker or malicious program before it has a chance to access a home’s sensitive information.
If you’re too busy to worry about hackers, consider hiring a professional monitoring service. San Francisco-based Axius (http://axi.us), for example, manages the setup, configuration and security of smart home devices, and answers general tech questions.
With a mission to help people unlock the ultimate benefit of their smart home, Axius was built by a team with core expertise in customer service and support technology including security specialists, smart home enthusiasts and builder market veterans. Axius brings the builder, property manager and integrator a solution that creates revenue, increases customer satisfaction and acquisition and ultimately grows adoption of smart home, while making the overall experience more enjoyable and beneficial to consumers. Axius is the trusted customer support resource for homeowners and renters, making sure every smart home device, no matter the brand, is safe, secure and functioning. Learn more at http://axi.us