You would never leave your front door wide open all night. Yet countless home devices are not securely connected to the internet, which is equally risky and leaves the digital door wide open for anyone to enter.
While most people know computers can get hacked, they don’t think about the other devices in their homes that are vulnerable to hacking without the proper safety precautions in place.
As smart home trends progress, and more devices connect to the internet in a growing Internet of Things (IoT), it’s now a concern that your thermostat, lights or baby monitor could be hacked. Recently, CloudPets kids’ toys were breached, leaking 2.2 million voice recordings between parents and their children.
Even if you swear off all smart home technology, you probably still have everyday devices in your home that are susceptible to hacking. These can include:
- Digital video recorders (DVRs)
- Security cameras
In October 2016, these types of devices were all used in a massive attack on internet servers. Hackers infected IoT devices with malware instructing them to ping the servers of Reddit, Spotify, The New York Times and other websites until they crashed from overuse. This type of incident is called a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack.
Once they have control of your device, perpetrators have the freedom to do whatever they want – whether that’s turning on and recording via your security camera, changing passwords to lock you out or even printing something on your printer ‒ as one hacker did in early February 2017 to 150,000 printers.
Luckily, there are plenty of steps you can take to arm your devices and greatly reduce the chances of them being compromised
- Update login credentials. Some devices like cameras and routers with weaker security come pre-loaded with default usernames and passwords. No matter what these preset credentials are, make sure you change them immediately if you haven’t done so already. When unprotected, smart home devices are some of the easiest devices for internet crawlers to get into – after all, they don’t even need to guess your login information!
- Have a strong password. Lengthy passwords are the way to go. We even recommend using sentences at least 12 characters long. While it might be tempting, don’t reuse passwords across accounts. That way, if someone figures out your Facebook password, at least they can’t use the same password to log in to your smart lock, unlock your door and stroll right in. Have unique passwords for all of your accounts. Write down your passwords and keep the list in a safe place separate from your computer – or consider using a password manager to help you set and store your strong, unique passwords.
- Shop around for secure gadgets. Some companies put in the extra resources and efforts to secure their gadgets, while others do not prioritize it at all. The key is to research and ask yourself: what security measures does this company have in place for keeping my information safe? Look beyond just a username and password. Additional protection might include https connection, two-factor authentication, third-party penetration testing and AES 128-bit encryption.
Right now, there are thousands of routers and devices using generic logins. Hackers can deploy a simple internet crawler to discover these devices – it’s low-hanging fruit for them. As long as you protect your network and devices with strong, unique passwords, you are much less likely to have problems with suspicious activity.
There’s no stopping the growth of smart home technology and the Internet of Things. Even those who adamantly oppose the idea probably have a router, printer or security camera at home. The key is to only connect devices that are secured with strong passwords, keeping your virtual front door locked from those who could do damage. For more security advice, take a look at tips from the STOP. THINK. CONNECT.™ global online safety initiative.
About the Author
Alysa Kleinman is the co-owner of Smart Home Solver, a tech blog dedicated to helping gadget lovers find the highest-quality, most secure smart tech for their homes.