A new piece of tech often tops the list of Father’s Day gifts. And while things such as wearable fitness devices, smart speakers, smart outlets, or any number of other connected gadgets and do-dads are popular picks, one thing often gets overlooked—protecting those devices from hacks and attacks.
We live in a day and age when even connected lightbulbs can be hacked. The reality is that gift-worthy tech like home cameras, speakers, and other Internet of Things (IoT) devices can fall prey to bad actors. The reason why is relatively straightforward. Each connected thing on your home network presents a possible entry point for an attacker.
By compromising even the most innocuous of devices, like the humble lightbulb, an attacker can inject malware into your network that can then compromise high-value items like your phones and computers—along with the data on them. So, if you’re wondering why on Earth anyone would want to hack a lightbulb, that’s one reason why.
Protecting your privacy, identity, data, and smart devices
Your network is only as safe as the least secure device that’s on it. And the sad fact is that many consumer IoT devices simply aren’t that secure. Their hardware can be limited, leaving little room for security measures onboard, and they can use transmission protocols that are less than robust. Further, they can use default usernames and passwords that people neglect to update, making them easy to access as doing a search online for those credentials. Secure data storage can be an issue as well, whether that’s a video from a security camera or health data from a fitness device that’s stored in the cloud.
The list of possible IoT device vulnerabilities goes on. Certainly, some manufacturers are more stringent about security than others. However, adding any IoT device to your network also adds risk. And with more and more of these devices entering our homes, dedicated hackers have more targets available to them than ever before.
In all, estimates project that the world will have nearly 40 billion IoT devices in the next four years across homes and businesses alike. And like our computers, laptops, smartphones, and tablets, all of them will need protection. Including the connected devices that you give dad.
Seven Ways to Protect Your IoT Devices
As you’re shopping for the best tech gift for dad, making sure his IoT devices are secure as possible may be the best gift of all. Right off the bat, the challenge with our IoT devices is that you don’t protect them the same way you can protect our computers, phones, and tablets, Namely, there isn’t always a way to install security software on them. What to do? In fact, we can show you several ways to tighten up the security of your new and existing IoT devices. What’s more, following these steps can also improve the overall security of your network too.
1. Do your IoT homework
Just because that new smart device that you want to give to dad can connect to the internet doesn’t mean that it’s secure. Before you purchase, read up on reviews and comments from other customers. Look for news articles about the device manufacturer too. The fact of the matter is that some IoT device manufacturers are much better at baking security protocols into their devices than others, so check out their track record to see if you can uncover any issues with their products or security practices. Information such as this can help you make an even more informed choice.
2. Don’t use the default—Set a strong, unique password
As mentioned above, one issue with many IoT devices is that they often come with a default username and password. This could mean that your device, and thousands of others just like it, all share the same credentials, which makes it painfully easy for a hacker to gain access to them as those default usernames and passwords are often published online.
When you purchase an IoT device, set a fresh password using a strong method of password creation. And keep those passwords safe. Instead of keeping them on a notebook or on sticky notes, consider using a password manager. It acts as a database for all your passwords and stores new codes as you create them. As always, don’t store them in an unprotected file on your computer, which can be subject to a hack or data loss.
3. Use two-factor authentication
Our banks, and even some of the online gaming platforms we use, use two-factor authentication to make sure that we’re logging in we really are who we say we are. The two factors break down like this:
- Your first factor is the username and password combo you have.
- The second factor in the mix is something you own, like your mobile phone.
Thus, when you log in with your username and password and then get a prompt to enter a security code that was sent to your mobile phone, that’s two-factor authentication at work. If your IoT device supports two-factor authentication, put it to use and get that extra layer of security.
4. Secure your internet router
Your router acts as the internet’s gateway into your home. From there, it works as a hub that connects all your devices—computers, tablets, and phones, along with your IoT devices as well. With all that data and information flowing through it, it’s vital to keep your router secure.
As we mentioned above, the first thing to do is change the default password and name of your router if you haven’t done so already. Again, use a strong method of password creation. Also, change the name of your router. When you choose a new one, go with name that doesn’t give away your address or identity. Something unique and even fun like “Pizza Lovers” or “The Internet Warehouse” are options that mask your identity and are memorable for you too.
While you’re at it, make sure that your router’s network security is set to WPA2-PSK [AES]. As of today, that’s the strongest level of protection available for home wireless networks. If your router doesn’t offer it, you may want to consider purchasing or renting one from your provider that does.
5. Set up a guest network specifically for your IoT devices
Just as you can offer your guests secure access that’s separate from your own devices, creating an additional network on your router allows you to keep your computers and smartphones separate from IoT devices. This way, if an IoT device is compromised, a hacker will still face the task of accessing your primary network to get at your computers and smartphones, along with the data and info that you have stored on them. You may also want to consider investing in an advanced internet router that has built-in protection and can secure and monitor any device that connects to your network.
As with our computers, laptops, phones, tablets, and apps, make sure you have the latest software updates for your IoT devices. The reasons here are the same: one, they’ll make sure you’re getting the latest functionality from your device; and two, updates often contain security upgrades. If there’s a setting that lets you receive automatic updates, enable it so that you always have the latest.
7. Protect your phone
You’ve probably seen that you can control a lot of your connected things with your smartphone. We’re using them to set the temperature, turn our lights on and off, and even see who’s at the front door. With that, it seems like we can add the label “universal remote control” our smartphones—so protecting our phones has become yet more important. Whether you’re an Android owner or iOS owner, get security software installed on your phone so you can protect all the things it accesses and controls—in addition to you and the phone as well.
And protect your other things too
And of course, let’s not forget our computers and laptops. While we’ve been primarily talking about IoT devices here, it’s a good reminder that computers and laptops need protection too. Using a strong suite of security software like McAfee® Total Protection, can help defend your entire family from the latest threats and malware, make it safer to browse, and look out for your privacy too.
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