How to Secure Your Smart Home In 8 Easy Ways

A smart home full of connected devices working in sync, and for the most part automated, make our lives easier. The efficiency of this setup comes from their connection to the internet and one another. This can also make your home vulnerable to cybercriminals.

how to secure your smart home
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Did you hear the gist about the baby monitor that was hacked? There was one time a cyber-criminal invaded the privacy of a family and used their camera feed to get personal information.

These are not to scare you. We just want to bring your awareness to the potential risks involved. So, if you have a connected home, you should protect it.

That’s what today’s post is about. We will give you tips on how to secure your smart home and keep your privacy private.

If you’re about to begin the journey of setting up your smart home, don’t be deterred. This is your chance to start on a secure note.

The Vulnerability of Your Smart Home

Statista estimated that by 2020, there will be more than 44.7 million smart homes in the US alone. That’s a staggering number of smart devices aka potential point of entry for cybercriminals.

If a hacker gains access to your thermostat, for instance, from the settings you‘ve made, he can deduce when you’ll be at home or not.

Let’s consider another scenario, what if the hacker gets into your smart home network and shuts everything down. She could demand a ransom to restore your access and you can’t even be sure she can reverse it.

A Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa device is popular in connected homes and we speak all sorts of commands to these smart speakers. Imagine a hacker got access to all the things you’ve said to it.

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Your financial information, passwords, and other personal details could fall into the wrong hands.

A survey carried out by Symantec shows that an Internet of Thing (IoT) device is attacked every 2 minutes. Another one by Netscout says it takes about 5 minutes to hack a smart device once it is connected to the internet.

Which Smart Home Devices Can Get Hacked?

In truth, all of them make this cut. We don’t mean to be the harbinger of gloom but the internet that enables them to work so well is also their prime vulnerability.

Anything connected to the internet can be hacked. From websites to computers, social media accounts, and, of course, your smart refrigerator. It all comes down to the measures you take to prevent that.

The Director of Information Technology at Tulane University, Professor Ralph Russo says that hackers can gain access to your home network through a smart device if they can exploit the IoT vulnerability of the device.

Fontbonne University faculty, Dr. Zaid Anwar highlighted some smart home devices, their vulnerability level, and why.

Most vulnerable

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Smart devices that are outdoors and are not fortified with security protocols. The likes of smart sprinklers, garage openers, camera doorbells, etc. These devices are easily accessible and can be hacked into by anyone with a Wi-Fi transmitter and a computer.

Less vulnerable

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These are the smart devices that are indoors such as baby monitors, smart thermostats, smart locks, smart speakers, etc. These devices have some protection, albeit weak. However, a hacker with the right tools and motivation can still breach a vulnerability in the configuration settings.

Least vulnerable

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Smart appliances such as refrigerators, coffee makers, etc. are the least likely of smart home devices to get hacked. Don’t get us wrong, though. This doesn’t mean they cannot be hacked.

Why Would Anyone Hack Your Smart Coffee Maker?

The ridiculousness of that idea is enough for most people not to pay attention to security measures. We already mentioned this is possible so, you have to be wary.

A hacker is not mad at the machine unless maybe they envy the fact that you get perfectly made coffee every morning without moving a muscle. The attack on it is just to gain access to your home network.

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From there, they can turn off your surveillance cameras making burglary easier. They could infiltrate your indoor cameras and use that to spy on you and retrieve personal information.

So, whatever smart device you have connected to the internet, do what you need to keep your home secure.

It’s obvious smart home hacking is on the rise as there have been repeated reports. The exact number is not ascertained as there are no regulations mandating manufacturers to reveal such info.

We know the FBI has warned parents about toys that are connected to the internet. Some time ago, a fish tank connected to the internet was the loophole hackers used to penetrate a casino in Las Vegas. Live feed from there cameras were on a free broadcast at that time.

Safety Tips for Your Smart Home

It’s important to know that there’s nothing like perfect security in the IT world, especially with infrastructures connected to the internet. The risk involved can only be significantly reduced.

That’s exactly what the tech tips we’re giving you will do. The chances of your smart home getting breached by imposters will significantly go down with a combination of some of these tips.

(1) Fortify your Wi-Fi network

First, consider the name you give your network. Does it reveal any personal details or your location? If so, change that. Use something less obvious or maybe even fun.

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You can make your wi-fi network invisible to someone scanning for signals in your area. You will find this option in your router’s settings. A network that can’t be seen can’t be hacked.

With certain routers, it is possible to create an alternative network. If you have access to that feature, you might want to create a separate network for your smart home.

With this, even if your smart home device becomes compromised, the hacker will be confined to that network. Your sensitive details, bank transactions, etc. will be safe as you’ll be operating with those on another network.

Another way you can keep your network secure is to consider creating a separate guest network for temporary use. That way, if you have guests that need network access, they’ll use that and not have access to your IoT devices. 

(2) Good old passwords are critical

If you want to secure your smart home network or anything for that matter, take your passwords seriously. For the umpteenth time, relatable things such as birthdays are not passwords!

When you get a new device, make sure to change the default password immediately or a hacker will stroll into your network with a Google search.

When choosing a password, go for at least 12 characters. Include symbols and numbers too. However, the length must be prioritized. For instance, “WeLoveSmartThings” is more secure than “5martL0ve” simply because the latter has fewer characters. Moreover, hackers know which alphabets are often changed to numbers.

We’re aware that remembering passwords is a bane for a lot of people. That is still not enough reason to slack on security. There are password managers you can use. Dashlane and Last Pass are good ones to try.

(3) Use two-factor authentication (2FA)

This refers to the second layer of verification after you’ve entered your username and password. The aim is to ensure your data remains safe even if a hacker gets past the first layer.

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A lot of smart devices are now using the 2FA method to improve the security of your smart home setup. You can watch out for this when buying your next smart home device.

(4) Keep your devices up to date

For lots of your smart home devices, you would have gotten notifications on updates at some point. Many times, part of the updates include improvements in the security.

This is a good reason to register your device with the manufacturer apart from activating your warranty.

If you regularly update your devices as they’re available, you can rest assured you at least have the maximum security available from the manufacturer.

Another way updates can help protect your device is with the removal of bugs. Bugs are lapses in the software that could be a potential vulnerability for hackers to exploit.

However, updates are used to plug such weaknesses. So, when next you get a notification to update your device, think again before you choose “remind me later”.

(5) Professional installation might be a good idea

We’re fans of DIY around here but if securing your smart home device seems like too much work or you’re not sure you can do it right, why not? It’s better than installing it yourself and leaving your system vulnerable.

Moreover, a technician can handle the hard wiring and powerlifting while saving you some time and effort. You can also ask questions about how you can better secure your network.

(6) Unplug devices that are not in use

Whenever you’re leaving town, for instance, be sure to turn off and unplug any smart device you won’t be using. That way, no hacker can use it as an entry point.

Moreover, it will save you a lot of energy bills. Don’t go overboard with this though, your thermostat, security cameras, etc. need to stay on. The likes of smart speakers, vacuums, or that coffee maker are the ones that need to stay unplugged.

(7) Clear your data before getting rid of devices

A common suggestion from smart device manufacturers is that you should remove your data if you’re going to give out, sell, or dispose of your smart device. Doing a factory reset is a good way to do this.

If you don’t, the next user can get their hands on your personal information. Worst still, that’s easy access to other devices on your network.

(8) Avoid accessing your smart home network from a public Wi-Fi

While free Wi-Fi might sound tempting, we’re sure you know it’s not secure. Accessing a secure network from an insecure one isn’t a good idea either.

If you must, be sure to use a VPN, this will help protect your identity and no one will be able to trace your activities.

Conclusion

Smart homes are convenient and fun. At the same time, they have the potential for a security breach. But if you follow the tips we’ve provided, you will significantly reduce the risk. Now you can have some more confidence in enjoying the benefits that come with owning smart devices that make your life easier.

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