How many devices do you have connected to your home WiFi? If your home is like many others, you probably have more than you think. It’s not just your computers and mobile devices transmitting data over your home network, it’s your connected thermostat, the smart hub (like the Amazon Echo), your smart TV, maybe even your refrigerator. And while these devices make our lives easier, they also make us more vulnerable to criminals and thieves.
The fact is, unless you have taken steps to completely secure your home WiFi and your Internet of Things (IoT) devices, it’s possible that you are being spied on — and that your personal information is at risk. For instance, just recently, TV manufacturer Vizio was fined $2.2m by the FTC for collecting data about users via their smart televisions, and then selling that information to advertisers. And an astonishing report from WikiLeaks revealed that government agencies and others have the capability to spy on virtually anyone using home electronics devices. Just ask your friends - inevitably someone can tell a tale about seeing ads online for products that they were just speaking about with a friend or colleague - even though they never did an online search. Is it possible that a nearby device’s microphone picked up the conversation?
The fact that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg himself covers the camera on his computer and turns off the microphone is an indication that spying is a possibility and something to be concerned about - and it’s not just marketers looking for a competitive edge who are doing it.
Hackers with more nefarious intentions are also looking at ways to exploit home networks to steal valuable information, or even hijack your devices as part of a larger attack on a bigger target. While this is a frightening possibility that can leave you feeling violated - or at the very least, eager to disconnect all your connected devices and put on a tinfoil hat - you can protect your home network and devices, and keep your information and your family safe from prying eyes.
How to secure your home network
The very first step to protecting your connected devices from hacking is to install maximum internet security software on your computers and mobile devices. This will prevent your devices from being infected by malware that can spread throughout your home network and create vulnerabilities.
However, powerful anti-virus protection is only the beginning. Given that as many as 70% of home automation devices have security vulnerabilities, you need to take additional steps to secure those loopholes and keep the hackers out. These include:
Secure your router: Not only does securing your router with a password prevent the neighbours from using your signal, it can keep hackers out of your home network. If possible, create different access points on your router, so you effectively have two networks - one for your home automation devices, and one for your mobile devices and computers. Set different passwords for each network - and never use the default administrator name and password for your router, which can often be discovered by an enterprising hacker.
Hide your data: Another way to protect your network is to hide your network. When you do, the only way hackers can access it is if they know the name of the network. You should also, if possible, encrypt all your signals.
Update firmware: One mistake many homeowners make is failing to update the firmware on devices and/or install security patches. Many device manufacturers are trying to help with this issue by issuing automatic over-the-air updates to firmware, but it’s still important to remain on top of these changes to keep devices secure. Don’t forget to check for updates to your router as well as devices.
Disable vulnerabilities: Most IoT devices come equipped with universal plug-and-play and remote management via Telnet capabilities, both of which create security holes that could allow malware or remote control of the device. During the device set-up, disable these features to add another layer of protection. Should you need them at any point, you can turn them on again.
As more homeowners install smart things in their homes, the number of targets for hackers increases exponentially. It’s up to you to protect yourself, and keep your data out of the wrong hands, by taking these important security steps.