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The “Internet of Things” (IoT) has been a realm of technological innovation that has grown exponentially over the past decade.
You probably engage in the internet of things nowadays and you might not even realize it. Do you use a smartwatch? Is your TV connected to the internet? Your fridge? Your car? Welcome to the internet of things!!
What is IoT?
Essentially, the internet of things is the collection of internet-connected items. This includes wearables like smartwatches and VR devices as well as appliances, vehicles, cameras, gaming consoles, or anything else that connects to the web, including things that can’t drive or keep your drinks cold like laptops and smartphones.
In a sense, when you have a lot of web-connected devices, you cultivate your own whole internet of things in your home or office.
Securing your internet of things
The problem, though, is that everything that connects to the internet has cybersecurity vulnerabilities.
You don’t want a hacker to nab your banking info from your laptop because they infiltrated your coffeemaker! Fortunately, with some precautions you can keep your IoT humming along securely.
Here are our 7 IoT security best practices:
1. Do your homework
The security of IoT devices can range wildly. A random gadget bought off a crowdfunding site might be easier for cybercriminals to target than a “smart” appliance released by a major manufacturer, although the opposite can also be true!
Before purchasing a new smart device, spend a few minutes researching it. Look up user reviews and see if there has been any security or privacy concerns. Find out what sort of security features the product has and understand its vulnerabilities.
2. Change the default passwords!
Probably the most important step you can take to improve a new device’s security is to immediately change its default passwords. Default passwords are usually extremely easy to crack (often they are “password”), but many people never take the simple step of changing them.
Create a password unique to that device that is at least 12 characters long and utilizes letters, numbers, and symbols. Ideally, the password will be a random string of characters, not a recognizable word or phrase. Use a password manager to safely remember the password for you!
Also, secure every device with multi-factor authentication (MFA) if possible because this adds another level of security that cannot be breached even if a cybercriminal obtains your password.
3. Set privacy settings to your comfort level
The moment you turn on a new smart device, immediately open its privacy and security settings. Configure them to your comfort level. Remember, many devices default to the least secure settings, and you shouldn’t assume those default settings are set to what you would like.
Your device might default to sharing your behavior and location data with the manufacturer, for example. Think about what sort of data you’re comfortable with your devices collecting and sharing.
4. Keep them on guest network
Many internet routers allow you to create a “guest” network, a network separated from the main network your home and work devices use. It is always smart to keep a guest network for when guests want to use wi-fi. If a guest’s device is infected with a virus or malware, a guest network helps keep the nasty programming to your network and devices.
Because the security of smart devices can vary and every one can create an access point to everything else connected to the internet, it is smart to just have them always use a guest network to better protect yourself. That way, if an attacker can gain access to a smart device, they can’t easily waltz onto your primary network, too.
5. Stay on top of updates
Beyond changing the default passwords, probably the next most important habit to keeping your internet of things secure is by keeping all your devices updated. When the manufacturer issues a software update, patch it immediately. Updates include important changes that improve the performance and security of your devices.
Often, you can turn on automatic updates. This means that as soon as an update is available, your device will automatically download and install it, although you might have to restart the device for installation to complete. We recommend using automatic updates for every device, including both computers and smart devices.
6. Don’t use a feature? Disable it!
Just like how you set your privacy settings to your comfort level, think about what features of a device you use. IoT devices often come with features you will never need or use. See if you can disable those features to protect your security and privacy.
For example, do you need your social media followers to know how cold your fridge is? It sounds ridiculous, but many devices are loaded with features that don’t always make sense. Even if that doesn’t sound silly to you (maybe your fridge is inherent to your online identity), do you need to control your fridge from a smartwatch app? Likely, there are some features you won’t use. Generally, the less superfluous features you have enabled, the more secure your device.
7. Be mindful of where you place devices
Many smart devices feature microphones and cameras, and these can sometimes be activated without your permission. Sometimes this is caused by hackers, but sometimes the devices are designed this way in order to collect data. Either way, you should think about where you put smart devices in your home.
Think strategically. Do you want them in a child’s room or where you have sensitive work or family discussions? You can even designate some areas of your home as “safe” rooms that are kept purposefully free of IoT devices.