How to Take Your Home IoT Security to the Next Level

November 26, 2020 - 8 minutes read

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The Internet of Things (IoT) has changed the manufacturing and industrial fields for the better, but we can also implement IoT applications in our homes, through the use of devices like smart TVs, smart locks, security cameras, smart thermostats, smart refrigerators, and more. Connecting all of these devices together with a voice assistant makes things feel even more seamless.

Most of us aren’t IoT security professionals, even though our home IoT systems are vulnerable to cybersecurity hacking attempts and attacks. Your overall home’s cybersecurity is as good as your weakest security protocols, so here are some ways you can fortify your home’s protection against hackers.

Stay on Top of Your Wi-Fi

Your Wi-Fi is one of the biggest areas of weakness for a home IoT system. If a hacker can infiltrate your Wi-Fi, they will be able to access your wireless network and the devices connected to that network. Keep on top of your Wi-Fi by ensuring it’s using the latest software, utilizing the stronger security protocols (like WPA2), and checking that it’s secured with a unique and complex password.

Because some devices connected to your Wi-Fi network store the Wi-Fi password insecurely, a hacker could gain access to your Wi-Fi by infiltrating your smart device. This would open the door for the hacker to see what’s going on inside your entire network and possibly even access your other smart devices. Another idea is to put your IoT-connected devices on one network and your computers and mobile phones on a separate network (with both networks using separate routers). That way, less-secure devices cannot impact your personal and work devices.

Lastly, use a VPN. Many new routers come with VPNs, and they’re a fantastic way to secure your network even more by masking your IP address and encrypting your network’s data transfer. If your router doesn’t have VPN capabilities, software like London-based NordVPN or ExpressVPN are great.

The Weakest Link

The Internet Society France Chapter was founded to generate awareness and engagement around IoT cybersecurity. According to the Society, there is not enough being done about IoT security: connected devices are weak in both privacy and security. Meanwhile, IoT devices have exploded in growth, and experts say we’ll have 20.4 billion devices globally by 2021. But that staggering number is weakened greatly by the lack of security in each device.

And it’s not just devices that have poor security protocols; devices that are always-on and monitoring for verbal activation, like Amazon’s Alexa, are also prone to data and privacy violations. For consumers who own these devices, it always feels like it’s just a matter of time before someone will hack into their home network or they’ll hear about Amazon employees listening to conversations and laughing at them. Many devices in the home may not seem smart at a first glance because they’re not directly connected to other devices in the home. This includes baby monitors, alarm systems, smart bulbs, and CCTV cameras that all connect through an app on a mobile device. But the fact of the matter is that they’re connected to your home’s network, making the network more vulnerable to a hacking attempt.

For example, hackers got into a North American casino’s fish tank two years ago. They were able to mine valuable data off of the network to the tune of 10 gigabytes, even though the fish tank’s little IoT system was just monitoring the water’s temperature and salinity for adjustments throughout the hour. This is an excellent example of a seemingly harmless device being used to gain access to an entire network and make off with a lot of valuable information from the attack.

Keep Up With the Latest

We can’t all stay on top of our home’s smart devices, especially since these devices were bought in the first place to make our lives easier and less complicated. But it’s important to know that when you opt for a smart device over a regular, non-connected device, you’re required to invest some time and effort in securing the rest of your devices and home network. As smart devices become more popular and ubiquitous (i.e. there soon won’t be an option to buy a non-connected version of the device), we can’t blindly trust the manufacturer to secure our devices with the strongest protocols.

Even if the manufacturer implemented the strongest protocols and best practices at the time of manufacturing, by the time you get the device connected to your home network, there may be major patches and updates issued for the device’s hardware and software. Thus, it’s imperative to continually educate yourself on security updates and changes in best practices. Keeping up with these changes can go a long way towards preventing a crippling hack.

IoT app development

Online courses on IoT security, cybersecurity fortification methods, and data privacy are affordable and plentiful. You can find these courses on platforms like the IoT Security Foundation, Coursera, and Udemy. The courses range from basic to expert level, and most are offered online, so you can refresh your knowledge at a time and place that’s convenient for you. By learning cybersecurity principles from the experts themselves, you can better buttress your home against the next big hacking attempt.

The Future of Smart Homes

Soon, we’ll be buying brand new homes that come outfitted with smart devices and appliances from top to bottom. It’ll be more convenient to live amongst these connected devices, but this won’t be without its downfalls. To avoid becoming a victim of a hack, secure your Wi-Fi, fortify your devices, and keep building your knowledge of your home’s technology.

Do you have any smart home devices? How secure do they feel? Will you take a course to strengthen your home’s connected devices?

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