In the modern home, everything from our TV, phone, tablet, fridge or doorbell is connected. These devices are great for general convenience, but unfortunately this interconnectivity can increase the chances of our devices being hacked.
An estimated 80% of smart home devices are vulnerable to attack and the reality is that every device that has a networking capability in your smart home can be compromised. Even connected baby monitors are vulnerable to being hacked, as a number of shocked parents discovered in 2016 when attackers were able to speak to their babies through compromised devices.
The thought is truly horrifying and enough to make any parent sick with worry, however many families are simply unaware of the security risks that these smart home devices can present unless they are properly secured.
Hackers are opportunistic and ready to take advantage of any lapse in security to launch a targeted attack. If hackers are able to exploit any vulnerabilities in your smart home devices, they can steal personal and financial information, spy on your activity, infect your devices with malware, commit cyber-crime from your device or launch a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack.
A DDoS attack is an attempt to make an online service or network unavailable by overwhelming it with traffic from multiple compromised sources. DDoS attacks have increased 91% since 2017, and the lack of security in smart home devices is thought to have contributed to this massive rise in attacks.
With the global market for smart home devices expected to reach £100 billion in 2022, homeowners need to become more security conscious and apply the same basic security measures to their home devices that they would apply to the physical security of their homes.
To protect your home and keep it safe from hackers, there are a number of steps you can take to secure your devices:
1. Change Default Username and Passwords
The first and most important thing you should do to secure your smart home is change the default username and password on your devices to something more secure.
Manufacturers will automatically assign a username and password to each device, and hackers can easily find these default passwords online. Changing the username and passwords will make it more difficult for attackers to take control of your smart home devices.
2. Hide Your Network from View
When you are initially setting up your home network you will be asked to create a publicly visible network name, otherwise known as a SSID (Service Set identifier). Most devices are configured with a default network name that has been allocated by the manufacturer. There’s a good chance that if your neighbours have a device from the same manufacturer, they will also the same SSID which could be a security nightmare if both networks are unencrypted. Changing the default name makes it a lot more difficult for a hacker to know what type of router you have, reducing the chance of attack.
3. Turn on Wireless Network Encryption
Encryption is one of the most effective ways of safeguarding your network data. Encryption works by scrambling your data or the contents of a message so that it can’t be deciphered by hackers.
The most secure type of encryption to use for your home network is WPA2. If you have older devices that are up to 10 years old, they may not be compatible with WPA2 so it will be vital to upgrade your home devices for enhanced security and performance.
4. Only Use Well Known Brands
When choosing a smart home device, you should always go with a trusted brand for added protection. The bigger brands will tend to take the security of their products more seriously and invest more time into ensuring security features are incorporated into the manufacturing and design of the product. They will also release software updates on a regular basis to prevent hackers from being able to exploit vulnerabilities within the device.
5. Regularly Update Software
Smart Device firmware like any other type of software can contain vulnerabilities that hackers are able to exploit. Most devices will not have the option of an auto-update so you will need to manually update the software to ensure your devices are protected. Users should make a monthly habit of visiting the manufacturer’s website, or open the app connected to their device to check for firmware updates.
6. Use Firewalls
Most Wi-Fi routers will contain a built-in network firewall which will protect broadband connections and prevent any network attacks from intruders. They will also have an option to be disabled so it’s important to check that your home router’s firewall is turned on to add another layer of protection to your home security.
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