Technology and wireless connectivity have forever changed households. While we don’t have the personal hovercrafts or jetpacks that we were promised as children, infinite connectivity has brought a whirlwind of “futuristic” benefits and luxuries few could have imagined even a decade ago. But more importantly, it has re-defined how the modern domicile needs to be managed.
Just as with an enterprise network, cybersecurity concerns also impact the home network. The onus is on us, the consumer, to take responsibility for home network security because device manufacturers have not and the risks associated with any data breach is hugely detrimental in the digital age we live in.
Smart homes are here and are only going to get smarter. In effect, they are no different from a small corporate network, and as such, they need similar levels of planning and security, especially when considering the growing trend of working from home. However, many consumers simply don’t have the desire to run them securely. Most importantly, consumers are not reviewing and taking the necessary security precautions like they do other aspects of their life.
Individuals will have to become their own chief security officer – finding a way to manage and control access to all of their digital assets, cloud services, social media profiles, personal communications and private devices. As our personal digital universes expand exponentially, so will the necessity of controlling our data and digital identities.
In a corporate setting, most organisations have a chief security officer, reporting to the CIO or the board, whose job it is to make sure all of the digital assets of that company are secured and protected. Now, a similar role is required of each of us – managing the security, data and access to our personal devices and digital services.
In 2020, we will shift from being mere consumers of data and digital services, to managers of our little digital personal republics. These are filled with devices that need rebooting, operating systems that require updating, and passwords that need to be managed.
If you think this doesn’t yet apply to you, look around. According to the Gartner analysts, the number of connected devices across all technologies will reach 20.6 billion by 2020. Earth will be home to twice as many digital devices as human beings – and that trend is only going to continue. This isn’t just happening in faraway data centers and up in the cloud – but in our homes.
The last thing we want is a cybercriminal being able to unlock our smart locks or take a peek through our smart cameras. With that said, here is a smart home cyber hygiene checklist.
Before You Do Anything
• Be sure you actually need to connect. The best and easiest way to protect yourself from the dangers that the digitally connected age can bring is to not connect if you don’t need to. Does your refrigerator really need to be able to send you text messages? Does your toaster need to be able to take a selfie?
• Research before you buy. Keeping your smart home secure starts with what you buy. As much as possible, stick with established brands that have solid track records. Look for devices that make it easy to update software, change default passwords or disable unnecessary features.
• Consider professional installation. If things seem too complicated, get some help and let the pros make sure your smart devices are installed with security in mind.
During The Setup
• Register with the manufacturer. This will allow you to get all the new software updates. Also, make sure to check what permissions have been granted during the setup — don’t allow access to anything that isn’t necessary.
• Set up a guest network. Make sure to give the guests in your home the ability to log onto a separate network that doesn’t tie into your internet of things devices.
• Safeguard your devices. Make sure you change your default username and password (this is good advice for anything). Also, turn off other manufacturer settings that don’t benefit you, such as remote access, which cybercriminals could use to access your system.
• Enable two-factor authentication. If your smart device apps offer two-factor authentication, make sure to take advantage of it. This gives you an added layer of authentication on top of your password, such as a code sent to your phone. Two-factor authentication makes things harder on the criminal.
Ongoing Things To Consider
• Update! Good advice for any technology is to make sure your device software is always up to date.
• Know what you have connected. The best way to have a secure mindset with smart devices is to know what devices you have actually connected to your home network. If you don’t know, simply turn off your Wi-Fi and see what stops working.
• Consider an upgrade. Is it time to upgrade anything you already have for a more secure device?
• Watch out for outages. A hardware outage may result in an unsecured state for your device. Make sure you check on them after you notice an outage.
• Avoid public Wi-Fi networks. Public Wi-Fi is vulnerable to attacks. Never manage your smart devices from a public Wi-Fi connection. Use your data or a secure VPN, or wait until you get home.
When Moving On
• Factory reset devices before getting rid of them. When you decide to throw away, sell or give away your smart device, make sure you take the necessary precautions to remove all your data. Don’t let the next person get their hands on it, or give them the ability to communicate with other devices on your network.
The fact is, every time we connect something to the digitally connected world, we are creating a new vulnerability for a cybercriminal to potentially take advantage of. Of course, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take advantage of all the capabilities smart devices give us. It just means that, above all else, you need to be smart with your smart homes and devices!