Without the right cybersecurity defenses, smart homes can be just as risky as they are convenient. Consumer smart home devices have surged in popularity over recent years. However, when investing in smart home tech, homeowners have to be careful that they control access to their home and their devices. Luckily, there are some key tactics they can use to protect their devices from cyberattacks.
Passwords and Access Control
One of the first steps homeowners can take to protect their smart home devices is to secure all of their passwords. Good password habits are core to strong cybersecurity. This includes the passwords on all connected devices in the home – every smart home device, all phones, tablets, laptops, computers, smart TVs, and even the Wi-Fi router. Anything in the home that is or can be connected to the internet needs to have strong passwords on it.
A strong password is by nature one that will be difficult to guess and likely also difficult to remember. So, it’s a good idea to also find a secure and trustworthy password manager program to save your passwords. The most secure passwords contain a mix of letters, numbers, and symbols with few or no words found in any dictionary and no connection to the user’s personal life, hobbies, or anything else of that nature. Where possible, it’s also a great idea to turn on multi-factor authentication, which will strengthen your password security even more.
Applications and Device Safety
A crucial part of protecting consumer IoT devices is being careful about which devices and apps are used. Homeowners need to do thorough research on any and all devices they consider adding to their smart home. Some may be surprised about the kinds of devices that are most at risk.
In-depth research shows that smart TVs and streaming devices are at a higher risk of cyberattacks than devices like computers and phones. This goes to show that every single device in the home needs to be carefully researched before buying, even if it doesn’t seem like a candidate for an attack.
It is also important to remember that the manufacturer of the device is responsible for determining what other apps and devices can connect to that device. Manufacturers may not have a trustworthy or secure policy in place for third-party app developers. Homeowners should research these policies as well as the privacy policies of any apps they plan to use.
This applies to major brands, too. One of the most popular smart home assistants made headlines in 2021 when researchers discovered serious privacy vulnerabilities. So, homeowners need to be careful about what apps and devices they trust with their data. This ensures they are using secure devices and programs to begin with and that, if a breach does occur, they have no sensitive data at risk with unreliable companies, manufacturers, or developers.
Home Network Security
In addition to protecting individual devices and applications, homeowners can also take steps to protect their entire smart home network. This is a critical step to protecting consumer IoT devices because it ensures the web connecting all those devices is secured, itself. Investing in a virtual private network (VPN) or even a dedicated smart home cybersecurity program are great options. Homeowners should also remember to give their Wi-Fi network a unique name and a strong password that is extremely difficult to guess.
Sometimes hackers will intentionally try to get into unassuming devices like smart appliances in order to exploit a weak home network where they can cause real damage through more sophisticated devices.
This is why experts recommend “splitting” the home Wi-Fi network. Just like users can create a “guest” network on their home internet, they can also create a separate network for these “weaker” consumer IoT devices. That way, if an appliance, for example, does get hacked, the more-important devices are still safe.
Staying Safe in Smart Homes
Smart home technology can make everyday life easier and more efficient. In fact, when consumer IoT devices are secured properly, they can even keep homes safer. It is crucial for homeowners to make sure they are taking the necessary precautions when choosing and maintaining their smart home tech, though. Good security habits and the right research will go a long way toward protecting consumer IoT devices from any cyberattacks that come their way.