The holidays are just around the corner and with that comes all the deals for new tech gadgets and gizmos. Today, just about any chore or household device can now be turned “smart,” giving the homeowner total control of their home from anywhere in the world, or at least so they think. Devices can consider themselves smart when they are able to connect and share information to other smart devices via a wireless connection. For example, the Nest thermostat is a smart device because it can connect to your smart phone through your internet and provide real time data to both you the user as well as Nest. Same as your pet feeder, your car, and your doorbell. The average homeowner today can easily adjust all those and many more through their fingertips thanks to the power of Internet of Things (IoT) devices.
What are Internet of Things Devices?
IoT devices are able to connect to the Internet as well as to other devices, sharing and collecting data to then provide it back to companies allowing them to see how and when consumers use their products. Unfortunately, the data can and has been compromised leading to stories such as the Wisconsin couple(1) whose home was hacked and the Illinois couple(2) who discovered their baby camera had been taken over by a disembodied voice. As more homes acquire IoT devices, the opportunities grow for ill-intended individuals to take advantage of unsuspecting consumers.
How to Protect Against These Attacks
There are ways to protect your home and family from being the next target. Below are 7 solutions to ensure you will not be the next victim of a hacker attack.
1- Change the Default Password on your Device
The default password provided with an IoT device is not as protected as you may think. It is very important to make sure you change this password to one that is much stronger and unique to only you. There are plenty of guidelines on the internet that involve password creation and strength variation. Just keep in mind you are not being clever when you make your password, “123456” or “password.” It is also smart to avoid your favorite sports team, band, or any other personal information as the basis for your password.
2- Enable Two-Factor Authentication
This feature is incredibly easy to install and provides an extra layer of protection against unwanted hackers. Two-factor authentication (2FA) allows users to utilize two different ways of verifying themselves to access their account. Typically, 2FA involves entering your password and then a second factor which can include a fingerprint scan, security token, or code that is provided to you on either through your cellphone or email. Disclaimer though, some devices do not support 2FA; however, consumers should consider adding that security feature to their qualification list before they purchase an IoT device.
3- Update All Devices
It is vital to ensure all your devices are operating on the latest software available. Updates to device software typically will address any bugs that were discovered in the previous software version. Consumers can find instructions for updating their devices within the device’s manual. If the device is managed by a third party, such as many home security systems, make sure to call regularly to ask for them to send a technician to ensure all those devices are up to date.
4- Install Malware Protection
Not all IoT devices support malware protection; however, your personal computers, laptops, and smartphones do, and they can/are connected to your IoT device. Ensuring these devices are bolstered with malware protection will provide another layer of security for your exposed products. If you are looking for malware protection, it can come in different forms: antivirus software, virus scanners, and extra security tool programs. A bonus is some antivirus software and virus scanners have free versions you can download. However, please be mindful of what you download on your computer. Many software downloads claiming to be malware protection are just the opposite so always do your homework before you make your decision.
5- Protect Your Wi-Fi Network
There are two ways you can ensure your network is protected from unwanted outside attention. If your modem and router are provided by your Internet Service Provider, contact them to learn how to secure your network. If you manage your own router or modem, ensure all default passwords are changed as mentioned earlier, the network is protected with some passphrase such as a strong Wi-Fi Protected Access 2 (WPA2) key, and the firmware is up to date.
6- Know What Product and Brand You are Buying
Different products offer different levels of security and it is paramount to research the available security features on a device. A quick google search for the brand name and “vulnerability” can provide a good starting point for this in the absence of or in conjunction with a sales person.
7- Don’t Pick Comfort Over Security
Just picking something simple is exactly what makes your home open to bad actors. Many times paying a monthly fee to a well-established security company which offers smart home solutions is a safe bet if you are looking to take some of the burden of security off. Just remember that the best security can be easily defeated with a weak P@$$w0rd!
 Business Insider, “Wisconsin couple describe the chilling moment that a hacker cranked up their heat and stated talking to them through a Google Nest camera in their kitchen.”
 Chicago Tribune, “‘Why are you looking at me? I see you watching me.’ Smart devices like Nest getting hacked in digital home invasions.”