The devices we use in our homes or businesses extend beyond the typical smartphone and laptop; nowadays, everything from alarm and temperature systems to lighting and appliances can be controlled electronically.
The desire to perform a number of functions electronically has led to the popularity of “smart homes,” in which multiple functions are connected under one network and performed automatically. Here are some of the benefits of smart homes:
- Manage devices from one place
- Remote control
- Energy efficiency
- Increased appliance efficiency
- Home security
Smart homes let you connect to the internet, turn on your appliances and enable your alarm system all from a single device.
While automation may make our day-to-day lives easier, it also makes us vulnerable to hackers or cyber-criminals that are looking to infiltrate private networks. The need for a secure smart-home system is self-explanatory; if someone gains access to your system, they can gain access to your home. But what about your internet network? What happens if that is compromised?
A hacked wireless router opens your system up to all sorts of problems. Someone that has gained access to your network can:
- Slow down your internet
- Collect your data
- Access illegal sites
- Install malware
Moreover, a hacker can see all of the devices that are using your Wi-Fi and attack those as well. In a best-case scenario, a hacker might just inconvenience you and slow down your internet by using it. In a worst-case scenario, they can collect your data and use it to conduct identity theft or procure sensitive information.
This can have a major impact on your home security devices, making not just your data, but your entire home susceptible to an attack. Making sure you are using devices installed by a professional security company can make the difference between trying to mitigate risk on your own, or by the added security measures working with professionals can provide.
Protecting Your Network
There are ways to prevent unwanted users from accessing your network. Network admission control requires a user to provide some sort of credentials, before using a network. You can also use an anti-virus or WiFi monitoring tool to keep track of who is using your network. Having a very secure password that is difficult to replicate also goes a long way. Here are some tips for creating strong passwords:
Never reveal your passwords to others. You probably wouldn’t give your ATM card and PIN to a stranger and then walk away. So, why would you give away your username and password? Your login credentials protect information as valuable as the money in your bank account. Nobody needs to know them but you—not even the IT department. If someone is asking for your password, it’s a scam.
Use different passwords for different accounts. That way, if one account is compromised, at least the others won’t be at risk.
Use multi-factor authentication (MFA). Even the best passwords have limits. Multi-Factor Authentication adds another layer of protection in addition to your username and password. Generally, the additional factor is a token or a mobile phone app that you would use to confirm that you really are trying to log in. Learn more about MFA and how to turn it on for many popular websites at https://twofactorauth.org/
.Length trumps complexity. The longer a password is, the better. Use at least 16 characters whenever possible.
Make passwords that are hard to guess but easy to remember.
- To make passwords easier to remember, use sentences or phrases. For example, “breadandbutteryum”. Some systems will even let you use spaces: “bread and butter yum”.
- Avoid single words, or a word preceded or followed by a single number (e.g. Password1). Hackers will use dictionaries of words and commonly used passwords to guess your password.
- Don’t use information in your password that others might know about you or that’s in your social media (e.g. birthdays, children’s or pet’s names, car model, etc.). If your friends can find it, so will hackers.
Complexity still counts. To increase complexity, include upper and lower case letters, numbers, and special characters. A password should use at least 3 of these choices. To make the previous example more secure: “Bread & butter YUM!”
Use a password manager. Password management tools, or password vaults, are a great way to organize your passwords. They store your passwords securely, and many provide a way to back-up your passwords and synchronize them across multiple systems.
Threat Awareness for Smart Home Owners
The concept of the smart home is modeled after convenience through connectivity and automation of processes for efficiency. When homeowners decide to adopt the concept of the smart home, they must also be aware of the threats confronting the smart home as cyber-criminals are trawling the internet and are also devising hacks aimed at the smart home. In response, the would-be smart homeowner must respond with a security measure in place. Security for smart homes can start with awareness and taking the necessary steps to secure the integrity of your home network:
- Make sure that your home router’s software is always updated; patches and software updates issued by the router manufacturer contain important security fixes for vulnerabilities found in the previous and current router software version.
- Make sure that you have a home network firewall installed as the firewall will be your first line of defense against network intrusion.
- Like your router software, the connected devices such as appliances and systems must also have the latest system software installed. Manufacturers of smart devices also issue security fixes in the system update.
- Hire a home network security consultant. While still uncommon, smart home security professionals assess the vulnerabilities of your home setup and make recommendations on how you can improve your smart home security. Professionals like the smart home security specialists will grow in number in the near future as smart homes become more common.
Do research on smart home device and appliance manufacturers who offer great customer service, technical support and solid support on the continuous software updates for their smart plug products.