Balancing the Benefits of Home Automation with the Need for Online Security
We live in an increasingly connected world, not just defined by the smartphones many of us carry in our pockets, but also by how the Internet has grown to influence our lives apart from personal computers. We’re talking about the IoT, or the Internet of Things — so-called “smart” devices that take common appliances, from thermostats to light bulbs and locks, and extend their functionality by adding network connectivity features. Now you can set your preferred home temperature from your phone, pull up video from your security cameras, and even change the color of your lights.
All this fabulous new functionality comes with some drawbacks; however, IoT devices are notoriously prone to security problems. Even some current leading brands, such as Ring, seem to be plagued by stories of families unexpectedly facing concerns because of hackers. How can you continue to enjoy the potential benefits the IoT can create while still maintaining good digital security?
Choose Devices That Are More Transparent About Security
These devices are the easiest way to enhance your security. Start with more trustworthy products, produced by companies that have a better track record when it comes to problems such as data breaches or serious bugs. Before you buy a device, do your homework and take a look into the manufacturer. See what others have to say online about the product, its ease of use, and security. Avoid products with many negative reviews, and especially stay away from products that have shown up negatively in the news due to their insecurities.
Change Your Passwords Right Away
Most Internet of Things devices come with default usernames and passwords, printed on the hardware on in the manual, to allow you to quickly log in and set up the device once you get it home. Unfortunately, too many people leave these default settings in place — and remember, these devices connect to the Internet. If a hacker can stumble upon the open ports facing the general Internet, they can try known default username and password combinations to try and ‘brute force’ their way into your device. This hacking is one of the most common ways people encounter problems with their devices, and it’s easily avoided by simply switching to more secure login credentials.
Disable the Universal Plug and Play Feature, if Present
Also known simply as UPnP, this is a software standard implemented years ago to facilitate easier communication between network devices. In an ideal scenario, devices with UPnP enabled can discover one another and begin sharing information without the need for a lengthy setup process by the end-user. Unfortunately, the same features that allow devices to find each other can enable hackers who compromise the device to leapfrog from node to node on your network. Shut and lock this side door into your private data by disabling UPnP functionality wherever present in your IoT devices.
Use a Wireless Router with Robust Security Standards
Insecure routers can be a weak point for the bad guys to take over your IoT devices. In fact, firmware insecurities in popular routers have led to the development of massive IoT infections over the past several years. Therefore, if you plan on using more of these devices, you should invest in a wireless router that has more robust built-in security and the capability to allow you to customize more security-related settings. Your ISP-supplied modem likely doesn’t have the same level of safety you need.
Always Keep Your Devices Up to Date
Regular updating is one of the essential things any IoT device owner can hear: update, update, update. Yes, it can be annoying to keep up with sometimes. Yes, it takes time. However, the alternative is leaving your devices vulnerable deliberately. Updates don’t just bring new futures, but they often include bug fixes and security patches that will make your device and your home more secure. Periodically check for updates to all the IoT devices in your home and keep track of what you updated and when. This way, it’s easy to avoid falling behind on this crucial task.
Monitor Your Network Traffic with Care
For the especially savvy, there is a range of software you can use to monitor the communications between the Internet and your connected devices similar to what UpCity uses. Watch out for signs of unusual activity, such as high bandwidth usage or constant communications, as these may be signs of a compromised device. However, if you aren’t a pro user, you can safely stick to following other steps to protect your home automation ecosystem.
Explore Home Automation and Security You Can Trust
Ultimately, good security begins and ends with the ability to be proactive about your privacy and safety online. Take care to avoid products from unknown or potentially disreputable manufacturers, stick to proven solutions, and follow the advice given above to develop a secure home network that won’t pose a tempting target to hackers. For a home automation and security solution that you can trust right out of the box, contact Smith Thompson Home Security today. With top-of-the-line products available at competitive rates, you can tap into the IoT worry-free.