New smart device? Make sure it’s secure before using

Before you start asking Alexa or Google who won the football game, changing the thermostat behind your partners back or starting a rave with the new color-changing lights you have a few to-dos to take care of to ensure your privacy isn’t being invaded by your new connected device.

Over the decades, we have been taught basic cybersecurity practices like using passwords or using anti-virus software.  But as technology has evolved, there is a need for better cybersecurity literacy and best practices.  One issue to be aware of is the ‘spray and pray’ attack method.  These common attacks are random and affect any device that is not sufficiently protected.  

Now I’m sure you’re wondering why this concerns you and your smart home device? As smart homes and IoT devices become the norm more hackers will take advantage of the unprotected devices. The number of IoT devices is expected to reach 30 billion by 2020.  That means that the number of opportunities for hackers to gain access into your network is also increasing. Now gaining access to the network may seem harmless.  Who would want to watch your baby sleep through the baby monitor? Hackers typically are not looking for a soap opera, but rather information that he or she can further exploit.  Any personal information such as name, date of birth, social security number, address, financial information can be exploited in the hacker’s advantage. 

Since we’ve explained why cybersecurity isn’t just an IT departments issue anymore and the responsibility is now on the consumers, let me suggest two initial steps to take that are simple and drastically improve the security of the device. 

Even if it’s the only thing you ever do, change the default credentials – the name of the device and password (Please, don’t let it be the only step you follow – but it’s a great start).  Hackers can easily look up the default settings to specific devices, gaining them easy access.  Ideally, the password you create will be unique to the device and a phrase rather than a single, easily-guessable word.  During this step, if it is an option, set up multi-factor authentication for an added layer of protection.

uPdAtE. Look I get it, updating seems like a waste of time.  I’ve hit ‘remind me later’ plenty of times myself, but updates are surprisingly critical for the security of the device.  Updates don’t just provide new features, rather updates protect against potential vulnerabilities.  Vulnerabilities are what hackers take advantage of to infiltrate a system.  Luckily, most manufacturers offer an auto-update which is a way to not have to put it on your weekly to-do list.        

Smart devices are transforming the way we live, but don’t let the fancy technology distract you from protecting yourself against hackers.  If you are interested in taking more steps to protect your home network, here is a great resource.