Man on his computer thikning about the smart home security concerns

With approaching 50 million smart households here in the US as we edge into 2020, your safety within your own connected home is paramount.

After all, it’s senseless having a house stuffed with security cameras, sensors, and motion-activated lights if you’re at risk from attack elsewhere.

What do we mean by that, exactly?

Well, unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll be aware of a handful of security breaches over the past eighteen months. From compromised smart speakers and leaked data to entire platforms like Google Nest and Philips Hue shown to have vulnerabilities, consumers are taking a step back.

So, you’ve invested in some smart devices for the convenience factor alongside a sense of security. Before we look at some specific safety concerns, which of these devices are riskiest?

Which Smart Devices Are Most Vulnerable?

The short answer is, “All of them.”

In one way, smart devices are like networked computers. Continually harvesting data from sensors baked in, all an attacker needs to do is exploit an IoT vulnerability, and they'll have access to your home network.

That doesn’t sound very encouraging, right?

The good news is that because smart devices can be hacked like a computer or a website, protecting yourself is a matter of simple best practice, which we'll outline below.

When was the last time you heard of a hack in a smart microwave? Smart appliances like ovens or fridges are your safest bet.

How about outdoor devices with limited capacity for security protocols like garage door openers, smart sprinklers, or wireless doorbells? Well, these might be convenient additions to your connected home, but they are also a weak point.

Smart devices indoors can also be vulnerable. App-controlled tech like smart bulbs and switches, thermostats, and digital assistants can also be hacked. Security tokens in place are weak, configuration settings, and vulnerable entry points all leave you at risk.

Maybe you’re accepting this harsh reality but asking yourself why someone would bother attacking your smart devices in the first place.

Why Would Someone Attack Your Smart Devices?

Hackers are attempting to acquire passwords for online banking and other accounts. They can enter and penetrate your network through the back door of smart devices.

And it’s what someone can do once they have access to your network that’s the dangerous part.

Beyond grabbing that sensitive personal data, they could also turn off your security cameras or even spy on you through a camera already in place. They’ll also be aware of when you’re away from home if you activate Away Mode on your thermostat, exposing you to a heightened risk of burglary.

All of these scenarios are wildly unlikely. Nevertheless, they are possible.

What counts is being aware of these risks and doing everything you can to protect yourself against these security concerns.

Top 5 Smart Home Safety Concerns and How To Fight Back

  1. A Vulnerable Router
  2. Compromised WiFi Network
  3. Weak Passwords
  4. Smart Devices Not Fully Updated
  5. Accessing Smart Devices From Public WiFi

1) A Vulnerable Router

Your router is a perfect soft spot that's wide open to receiving malware.

The first thing you should do straight out the box changes the default username and password. Often, all a hacker needs are the default name of a router, and they can determine the boilerplate password.

You should reset your router every couple of weeks as a matter of routine.

2) Compromised WiFi Network

It would help if you took sensible precautions when setting up your home WiFi network.

The majority of routers allow you to configure multiple networks. In simple terms, you could set up one network specifically for smart devices. You can also create a guest network for any visitors. By doing this, limited sensitive information exposes in the event of a security breach.

Maybe you're not particularly tech-savvy, and creating multiple networks sounds like a headache. Well, there’s some good news…

Update your router and opt for a mesh WiFi system like Google Nest WiFi. The primary benefit of a mesh network is a dependable single from corner to corner of even large connected homes.

In terms of security, you'll have the option of multiple networks without the headache of navigating an older router for set-up.

There’s also a revamped version of this mesh network offering even wider-reaching coverage.

3) Weak Passwords

Don’t underestimate the importance of robust passwords.

The first thing you should do with any new smart device is to change the login credentials. Failing to do exposes you to a significant risk as so many of these gadgets come bundled with the same default details. The vast bulk of successful cyber attacks come about after login details are compromised.

Choose random strings of characters in place of real words, avoid using personal information, and change your passwords regularly. It would help if you also refrain from using the same passwords across accounts and devices. That way, a security breach in one area doesn't mean you're at risk across the board.

Consider using a password manager or a physical notebook to keep track of these passwords. After all, it's pointless overhauling your security if you end up locked out yourself.

4) Smart Devices Not Fully Updated

We know those software update requests can become tiresome, but they're in place for your benefit.

Software updates are used to address security flaws or loopholes. Failing to update leaves you at risk.

Consider using automatic updates if you don't mind relinquishing a little control. You'll never end up forgetting, and you can always revert to manual updates.

Make sure, too, that you stay up to date with all firmware.

5) Accessing Smart Devices From Public WiFi

Imagine you’re pecking away on your laptop at Starbucks while the stranger opposite is carrying out a virtual invasion of your smart home.

A study carried out by computer scientists at the College of William and Mary exposed many flaws in IoT devices. One of these weaknesses is the way hackers can enter your home through a low-security smart device like a smart light switch. In an example of what's known as lateral privilege escalation, the hacker can then access other elements of your connected home.

Luckily for you, minimizing your exposure here is simple. Don't use public WiFi networks for smart device management. You could theoretically use a VPN for protection, but you're better off sidestepping public forums for checking up on your smart home.

Final Word

Well, the last thing we want to do here is to whip up any worries for you. That said, if you're automating your home, you should be aware of best practices to minimize any risk of hacking.

If you’re looking for the latest smart home news so you can stay abreast of security issues, bookmark our blog. We update our content daily. And, if you feel the temptation to upgrade your WiFi for a mesh network, why not sign up for our email newsletter first? If you're a new Smarthome customer, we'll send you a coupon code for 20% off your first order, so head on over and sign up right now!

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