Thoughts from the conference floor: securing the connected home

This blog post was written by Nick Viney.

In my line of work, you read and hear a lot about the future of connectivity, but at Mobile World Congress the future feels so close you can almost touch it. Just one day in and already the place is abuzz with the latest tech, trends and everything in between.

Last week, I wrote about what McAfee is doing to bring together the worlds of connectivity, computing, and cloud for a seamlessly connected, powerfully smart 5G future. And, just being here, you’re reminded why the task at hand is so important. As Dan Bieler, a Forrester blogger and analyst, noted last year, “The main MWC themes are increasingly intertwined.” He was talking about things from a business perspective, but the observation is still a valid one for the consumer world. The themes discussed at MWC reflect those going on in the wider world, where the future looks increasingly connected.

Just take a look at the home. Walking through the Fira Gran Via, I’m surrounded by technology which will soon be common-place in our everyday lives. Technology which will fill our living rooms, kitchens and bedrooms, promising to improve or enhance our day-to-day existence. Just take a look at the success of the Amazon Echo, which (based on my own social media channels) seemed to be under most people’s Christmas trees in December. And, as you might expect, Amazon is seeking to increase the usefulness of the Echo device and Alexa as time goes on, by partnering with other companies with an interest in reaching consumers at home.   

The connected home is no longer a far-off vision of the future, but a dawning reality. We’re using technology in our homes to join up services and devices which previously couldn’t be connected, and there’s plenty more on the horizon. As I’ve written about before, figures suggest that smart home products will exist in 50% of households by 2020 – and that’s something we should consider seriously.

Because, while technology offers a great many benefits, it also comes with its own inherent risks. In the same way that we worry about safeguarding our physical houses, we should also be concerned about security of our digital realms, and where the digital and physical meet.  

So by all means embrace the future, but remember these few simple steps as you do so:

  • Lock down your devices. Where possible, it’s important to ensure that devices are locked with a strong PIN code, as well as complex and unique passwords to prevent unauthorised access. The Smartphone is the gateway to a great many connected devices, so treat it with the same care and attention you’d give to your house keys. Use a multi-factor authentication (MFA) solution that will combine your strong passwords with an extra layer of security – like your fingerprint or facial recognition.
  • Keep your devices updated. Most devices will tell you when they need updating, so please don’t ignore them. Updates often include important security fixes designed to patch and protect from attacks.
  • Take control of your home network. Setting up a guest Wi-Fi network allows visitors to access the internet but keeps your home network private and isolated from their devices. You can also separate your IoT devices (smart home devices, wearables, etc.) from traditional connected devices (laptops, smartphones, tablets, etc.) where more secure information is stored, so if an IoT devices is compromised, the breach will be limited to devices connected to the guest network. Solutions, such as McAfee SecureHome Platform, help you easily manage and protect devices connected to both networks, and can ensure that guest devices connected to your network don’t (intentionally or not) open you up to an attack.
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