As recently as a few years ago, it would’ve been impossible to imagine just how connected the modern world would become — and how quickly it would happen. The advent of smart home technology has made our lives easier in a multitude of ways. Gone are the days of worrying about whether you turned off the coffee pot, adjusted your thermostat or locked your door before you left for work or vacation.
Smart home technology offers unparalleled peace of mind, so it’s no surprise that modern home tech is seeing a light-speed growth in popularity. In fact, U.S. officials have predicted that American consumers will use almost 31 billion of these devices by 2020.
But that staggering growth also brings the question: how safe are our smart homes and the data they collect?
Heyday for Hackers
The Internet of Things (IoT) is designed to simplify life and improve efficiency for everyone, from large business conglomerates to average homeowners. But unfortunately, IoT-run smart home devices can also benefit an unintended audience: hackers.
Last year, cybersecurity leader McAfee reported on a children’s doll that could be used by hackers to open connected smart locks on homes, giving hackers entry. And the hackers’ ingenuity doesn’t stop there; they’ve been able to remotely access everything from internet-connected cameras to digital assistants and drones to compromise their victims’ closely-guarded data and possessions. Some security experts even venture to say that these devices are more insecure than they are secure.
Get Smart About Cybersecurity
Every connected device in your home represents a potential security vulnerability, so it’s important to keep yourself safe. If you’re looking to set up your own smart home, here are a few ways you can ensure that your high-tech space doesn’t turn into a playground for cyber thieves.
Use Strong Passwords
It may seem obvious, but strong passwords are the best way to make sure your private data stays that way.
When it comes to generating a password, the longer the better. Use a string of letters, characters and numbers, and stay as far away from “PetName123” as possible. Also, steer clear of random password generator websites; they could just be bad guys in disguise.
If you’re worried about remembering complicated passwords, there are plenty of trustworthy software solutions out there to help. Check with your cybersecurity provider to see if it offers a password manager feature. Alternatively, write your passwords down and keep them in a secure place away from connected devices.
Change Factory Security Settings
Most smart-home devices come preloaded with factory security presets. This means that anyone with a Wi-Fi connection can easily decipher the device name and a simple online search can provide a hacker with your factory-preset password — giving them access to your precious data.
Whenever you’re connecting a new device to your home network, be sure to change the device name and password to something that can’t be easily recognized or guessed by a stranger. When considering a new name for a device, be sure not to include any personally identifiable information (like your mother’s maiden name or a childhood phone number).
Use a Secure Router
If you’re looking to go all in on your smart home, you may want to consider investing in a secured router to act as a gateway between all your connected gadgets and the internet at large.
These devices can be costly, but many reputable cybersecurity companies have products that include virus and malware protection. They’ll make sure every device that’s connected to your Wi-Fi network is monitored and protected.
Update Your Software
No one enjoys installing software updates, but they’re more important than you think. Updating the operating systems on all your devices patches up any new cybersecurity weaknesses, meaning hackers can’t exploit defects in your software.
Next time your smart TV, tablet or computer prompts you to install updates, click “yes.” It’s worth taking the time to protect yourself from digital intruders.
Your connected devices are meant to make your home smarter and more convenient, not cause you more stress. Take these quick and easy precautions to help your smart home stay safe and sound.
About the Author
Arun Ganesan serves as vice president and chief technology officer at Esurance, where he’s responsible for data management, cybersecurity, business intelligence, infrastructure and operations. Arun draws on his years of experience to share advice about technology, homeowners insurance and the intersection of the two.