To live in a smart home feels like you’re living in a Jetsons episode.
You ask Alexa to play your favorite song while you’re in the bath, and it gets played in a matter of seconds. Want to enjoy some private time in your home? Just issue a voice command and all your curtains and blinds will be closed. Need a cup of Joe the first thing in the morning? You can schedule your smart coffee maker to start brewing minutes before your usual wake up time. Forgot to turn off the lights before you went out? A few taps on your smartphone can switch them off.
The Widespread Adoption of Smart Home Devices
These devices make life so much easier for users, which is why there’s widespread adoption for them. A 2019 Smart Home report by anti-virus firm Avast stated that over two out of five digital households around the world have devices linked to the internet. It’s even more apparent in larger countries like the US. More than half of households have smart home devices.
Apart from convenience, people also buy these devices for environmental and energy-saving reasons, according to a recent report by ValuePenguin. This is because you can program these gadgets to only run at full capacity when you need them to, saving electricity in the long run. The most popular smart home devices in America, apart from smart speakers, were thermostats and ACs, lighting and kitchen appliances.
However, having a smart home isn’t just about convenience, functionality and efficiency, you also need to consider the various cybersecurity risks associated with it.
The Security Risks of Smart Homes
Unfortunately, the Avast report also uncovered that over 40 percent of households worldwide have at least one connected device that has security vulnerabilities. These problems can let attackers into the rest of your network. One compromised device can affect everything in your home that’s connected to the internet.
Smart devices are also seen as a prime target for hackers, according to Kaspersky Lab. Its 2018 study found that over 121,588 of its malware samples attacked smart devices in the first half of the year. This is because they’re easier to infect than traditional computers. Plus, smart home users don’t often take security precautions when setting up their devices.
Once cybercriminals break into your smart home device, they have free rein to do whatever they want. They can record video without your knowledge on your baby monitor or home surveillance system, control your smart door locks, or even use the devices connected to your network to mine cryptocurrency or carry out attacks on other networks.
So what can you do to keep attackers away from your smart home?
Keep Your Smart Home Devices Secure
- Start With Your Router
Your Wi-Fi router is what connects all your devices to the internet. It’s also a gateway for cybercriminals to access your whole network. As such, you should keep it as secure as possible. If your router has the default username and password, attackers can easily guess it.
Change your password to something with at least eight characters, with a combination of upper case letters, lower case letters, numbers, and symbols. The longer and more random it looks, the harder it is to guess and brute force. Just make sure you have it fully-memorized.
Make sure you use the latest encryption method, too, so attackers can’t intercept the data you send and receive through your router. Encryption involves scrambling data so that it’s unreadable while it’s moving through your network. Only you have the key to unscramble it and make it readable again. Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) 3 encryption is the current industry standard.
- Keep Your Firmware Up to Date
Over 31 percent of smart home devices are at risk of attacks due to unpatched vulnerabilities. Vulnerabilities are virtual “holes” in your device’s software that attackers can use to gain access to it, and the rest of the network. Despite the thorough programming practices of smart home manufacturers, these holes can still go unchecked. They often patch these up through updates. Even if it is a chore, downloading and installing these patches is always worth it to ensure your devices are secure.
- Improve Your Authentication Methods
Your username and password only provide a single layer of security. If attackers manage to breach it, they get full access to your device and network. If possible, turn on two-factor authentication (2FA) on all your smart home devices. 2FA adds another authentication method after you log in with your username and password. It often involves sending an email or SMS pin to your phone that you can input on your smart home device for full access.
Smart home devices make your home life more convenient and efficient. Just like other appliances and gadgets connected to the internet, however, they’re also vulnerable to cyber attacks. Use these tips to ensure your devices are completely secure.