How to Ensure Your Smart Home’s Cybersecurity

In today’s digital era, smart homes offer convenience, connectivity, and control, transforming the way we interact with our living spaces. However, as our homes become more integrated with technology, they also become targets for cybercriminals. The smart home devices in our homes collect and store sensitive information, like usage patterns, audio, video, and most systems are linked to financial accounts for transactions. Inadequate security could result in unauthorized access leading to privacy violations and identity theft. Securing your smart home against cyber security threats should be a top priority. Here are a few ways to do that.  

The Risks of Not Securing Your Smart Home

Your smart home can become part of a botnet network, which hijacks internet-connected devices, allowing malware to spread across the network and impact other connected devices. 

To protect against botnets, all connected devices need to be secured using strong passwords, two-factor authentication, and antivirus software. 

Although some devices like Chromebooks or smartphones do not necessarily need an antivirus, malware can be an issue. According to Ilijia Miljkovac, comparing the best antiviruses for Chromebook devices, smartphones, and tablets is vital, especially if smart home devices are connected to the same network. Taking proactive steps to protect your devices and network can reduce these cybersecurity risks.

Use Strong, Unique Passwords for All Devices

Weak passwords make it so much easier for attackers to gain access to your smart home devices and network. Once a device is compromised, hackers can easily access other devices on a network and potentially control them as well. Reusing the same password for every device means that if one account is breached, it puts all other devices at risk too. Using unique, strong passwords limits the damage. Ensure the passwords are long, complex, and random, making it harder for hackers to guess and crack. 

Segment Your Network

Unsecured WiFi networks can allow unauthorized access to your smart home devices, allowing threat actors to take control of them, including appliances, locks, and security cameras. Change all default passwords on all your smart home devices and avoid using common or guessable passwords. Create a separate network or VLAN specifically for all Internet of Things (IoT) devices in the home, isolating them from your main home network. The purpose of segmenting your network is to improve network security, and the performance of the device, making it much easier for you to manage and control.

Segmenting your network creates multiple, isolated segments within a larger network. Each segment will have its own security measures, policies, and levels of trust. This limits how far an attack can spread by containing it within a specific network. It also reduces network congestion and improves the overall performance of your WiFi network by isolating traffic within each segment. Segmenting a network can either be done using VLANs or network virtualization.

Enable Two-factor Authentication

In addition to using strong passwords on your devices, use two-factor authentication to add an additional level of security to all IoT devices. Smart home devices are often accessible remotely, which increases the risk of unauthorized access. Two-factor authentication (2FA) significantly reduces the risk of device hijacking, unauthorized access, and data breaches.

Two-factor authentication typically consists of:

  • Something you know: This would often be a password or one-time PIN (OTP)
  • Something you have: This could either be a one-time code sent to your phone, a security token, or biometric authentication like facial recognition or fingerprint scan.

Most computer software and phone apps, even video gaming and online casino accounts require two-factor authentication as an additional security measure to safeguard sensitive information. If your device passwords are compromised, two-factor authentication ensures your device remains secure. It essentially works by adding a further step to the login process. As a result, even if someone gains access to your password, merely entering will still not enable them to get into your device or system. 

Another option is multi-factor authentication (MFA), which uses the same concept as 2FA, but adds additional steps to the process. While this can seem tedious, it increases the overall levels of security over crucial systems and devices, making it virtually impossible for them to be hacked by the most commonly used means.  

Keep Devices Updated

Smart home automated devices contain software and firmware patching vulnerabilities that can be exploited by hackers. Outdated devices are more susceptible to malware and ransomware infections. Regularly updating your devices ensures they have the latest security patches to protect against the latest cybersecurity threats. Some regions may have regulatory requirements that are mandatory to ensure smart home devices are updated. This ensures that manufacturers are compliant and it protects the integrity and security of your smart home devices.

Monitor Device Activity

Monitoring smart home devices is crucial for any suspicious activities. By reviewing logs and unusual behavior, you can easily identify if any devices have been compromised or accessed by unauthorized users. This can help protect against any potential security breaches early on. Additionally, using a network monitoring app or router dashboard to view all devices currently connected to your home network can spot unfamiliar devices or IP addresses. 

To view a list of all connected devices, log in to your router’s admin interface to see the list of connected devices. Most smart home device mobile apps allow you to review a list of connected devices, unusual network traffic, and unusual data patterns connected to your home network. Removing unfamiliar devices and addressing high bandwidth usage can help prevent potential cyber threats and protect your home.

Disable Unused Features

One of the most effective ways to improve the cybersecurity in your home is to turn off and disable unused features of your smart home system:

  • Turn off remote access: Most smart home devices often allow remote access via the internet for convenience, but this feature can be abused by threat actors. Disabling the remote access feature off when not in use prevents hackers from gaining unauthorized access.
  • Unused network services: Several smart home devices run on various networks like SSH or UpnP. These services can introduce various security vulnerabilities if unneeded and left running. Disable any unused network services to reduce a surface attack. Surface attacks are quite common in cybersecurity. Hackers can gain access to various entry points or vulnerabilities to the system, network, or devices, and extract sensitive information or control your smart home system.
  • APIs and Developer features: Most developer features like APIs are left exposed often for customization. These features are often complex and tricky, and oftentimes the settings do not require any modifications. Restrict access to APIs and disable developer features unless you actively use them.
  • Voice assistants and microphones: Smart speakers and other devices are all equipped with microphones that can be accessed to eavesdrop if compromised. Disable voice assistant features and microphones when not in use to protect your privacy.
  • Unused wire protocols: Most smart devices support multiple wireless protocols like Bluetooth. Disable wireless protocols when not in use to prevent potential exploitation. 

Conclusion

Ensuring cybersecurity involves a multilayered approach. By implementing best practices, you can significantly reduce the risk of cyber threats and protect your home’s connected devices, networks, and your personal information. Cybersecurity is an ongoing process that requires diligence, but following these steps creates a much more secure smart home environment.

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