Securing Today’s Connected Home

When thinking of cyber threats, malware, phishing, and data breaches typically come to mind. But as 2016 has shown us, threats don’t stop there. Cybercriminals are getting more and more creative and finding new, sophisticated methods of attack to access our data. One of the more successful methods as of late: attacking connected IoT devices in the smart home.

These smart home devices can be almost anything – a connected thermostat, lightbulb, camera, the list goes on. In fact, according to Gartner, there are 5.5 million IoT devices connected in homes each day around the world. And with all of these devices connecting to one router, there’s now that many more gateways into your smart home network, making it more susceptible to compromise.

The question is: how likely is such a breach? Many of these connected devices are manufactured with low security standards. Just remember what happened with the Dyn DDoS attack. Low device security standards caused one of the largest Internet of Things (IoT) botnet attacks in recent history, affecting almost the entire east coast in the process.

I know what you might be thinking – that attack was caused by compromising thousands of IoT devices. But, if a handful of these devices are located in a single home, while the damage may not be as widespread, it can get personal. Once a cybercriminal finds their way inside your home network through these devices, the hacking possibilities are virtually endless. They can control your entire home— flicker your lights, access your camera to peer into your life, shut down your devices, and worst of all, capture any personal data sent across the network.

Now, with all of these devices—in addition to your computer and phone — making up unique (and hackable) gateways into your smart home network, a new security approach is needed. This approach is layered security or sometimes referred to defense in deapth. The way to create this in your home is by adding protection directly into your gateway to protect all the devices in the home. Additional security such as a firewall and antivirus should also be used to protect your network and PCs, laptops, mobile devices and Macs.  This layered security strategy is the approach that businesses use to safeguard their data and employees.

While companies like ours work to help ensure your connected homes are as secure as possible, there are a few things you can do directly to protect your smart devices today. Here are a couple of tips for protecting your connected home network, today:

  • Change up your passwords. Take standard security precautions with your connected devices, such as regularly updating your login information. Frequently changing the passwords on both your home router and smart home devices is an easy way to ensure your network is better secured. Make sure the passwords are hard to guess.
  • Apply updates: Very often these connected device manufacturres will create patches to the firmware to fix known bugs and often implement improved security. It’s important to apply updates when notified by the device manufacturer.
  • Be mindful of who’s connecting to your network. We typically don’t think twice about handing out our Wi-Fi password to visitors in our homes, but it’s important to limit access to your network. You can’t keep track of everyone’s activity, so remain conservative and limit who’s getting entry to your gateway.
  • Do your homework. When looking to purchase a new IoT device for your home, do your due diligence – research the manufacturer, check security standards, read reviews. If the device doesn’t seem up to par, it’s not worth the risk.
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