5 Tips to Make your Smart Home more Secure (Keep Hackers Out)
Did you hear about the family convinced by their Nest camera that there was an impending nuclear attack? What about the Facetime bug that enabled users to eavesdrop on others? Well, these are some of the threats that IoT (internet of things) devices pose.
Though they (IoT devices) increase convenience, they are now targets and often easy targets for brazen cybercriminals. Every additional smart device creates an avenue hackers can use to gain access to your information. However, despite the frightening headlines, there is no need to unplug. There are several ABC easy hacks that you can use to tighten up the security of your devices. Here are our top 5:
1. Secure your Router
Your router is like a border crossing, it is the gateway into your home, and it’s responsible for checking the credentials of everything that is coming in and going out. Therefore,it goes without saying that this is where security begins.
- Basic Security Settings
To beef up your router’s security, you have to delve into the settings. You can follow the instructions manual or type the router’s IP address into your browser and logon from there. First, change the default password to something stronger (more on this later. You should also enable WPA2 (Wi-Fi Protected Access II) as it is the latest security in the market. And if you are on an open network or WEP security, change it to WPA2 as soon as you can.
Next, rename the router, so it is not easily identifiable and create a guest network, so visitors don’t have and cannot retain access to your primary one.
- Advanced Safety Settings
Though the basics will work, you can never be too safe. Start by ensuring that your firmware is always up to date. Updates patch security holes and squash bugs that could be exploited by criminals though you are in luck as most modern routers can now auto-update.
Other than updating the software, disable the remote access option that allows you to connect to your home network while away. The remote access option does not increase vulnerability, but it gives hackers a bigger target. Finally, disable UPnP (universal plug and play) as it makes your device more susceptible to attacks.
2. Activate 2 Factor Authentication
Recently a hacker spoke to a baby through a Nest security camera and hurled insults at the couple. Regretably, 2FA could have thwarted this.
2-factor authentication also known as multi-step authentication is a mechanism to double check your identity and ensure it is legitimate. Though it is not flawless, it gives hackers a tough time when trying to access your devices. Often, it involves entering your password and a code that is sent to you via SMS after the first authentication. What this means is that hackers would have to steal your password and phone to gain access to your connected devices. The code is a one-time-code which further bolsters the security.
If you have multiple devices using 2FA, you can skip the SMS delivery and use a mobile app such as Google Authenticator. However, 2FA depends on the security of your phone. A cyber-criminal can clone your sim card and redirect the traffic, therefore ensure your phone is secure.
3. Use Strong Unique Passwords
Two-factor authentication is of no value unless you use it to complement a strong and unique password. Many people use weak passwords, and their devices are easy to access. By weak, we mean passwords that contain words such as “password,” “querty,” and “admin.” Passwords with a combination of easy numbers such as “1234” or “0000”. Some even use their spouse’s names, their birthdays, or a pet name.
Moreover, for those not using weak passwords, 65% of them would be easy to crack using brute force. So what qualifies as a unhackable and unique password?
First, ensure you use a different password for each device and never recycle them even after disposing of a gadget. This way an intruder will not be able to breach into all your devices even on the off chance that they gain access to one.
When creating passwords, ensure:
- They are at least six characters long
- That they contain a mixture of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters.
- That you change them every month,
Here is a good example of a strong password – “aF&H$AsP.” These are the first letters of every word in the idiom “a fool and his money are soon parted.” The special characters represent the words “money” and “and”, and every second character is capitalized for better safety.
4. Buy from Reputable Brands
Security experts generally agree you should buy gadgets from reputable brands over no-name companies. First, these organizations have a reputation to protect, and they will employ better security measures in their devices. Moreover, their infrastructure is likely to be top-notch, and you can expect nothing short of the best when it comes to fixing security patches, and updating the software.
5. Keep Track and Update your Devices
Finally, you should upgrade all your devices similar to what you did with the router. Again, software updates patch vulnerabilities in the system and can offer new security features. Other than updating your devices, keep track of all smart home gadgets and disconnect those that you rarely use. Just because a device can be connected to a network does not mean it should be. Also, get rid of any old gadgets as these are vulnerable to attacks.
By and large, keep an eye on all your devices, and ensure that they have the latest software upgrade.
As the tech community works on improving the security of smart home devices, it is best for consumers to be smart with their gadgets. Maintain a healthy mistrust of these services and follow the above tips to ensure that you are ever safe. If you want to take your home network security a step further than the steps we discussed in the article, contact us to schedule a free consultation to evaluate the security of your data in your home!