From lights and thermostats that can be adjusted via a verbal command to security systems that can be turned on from afar, today’s smart home technology was the stuff of science fiction a few decades ago. This type of technology is commonplace in many homes today, and it’s not just used for fun and convenience — smart home technology is being tied into home security systems to create a truly secure smart home.
Is your home truly a secure smart home when it comes to cybercriminals, however? Recent headlines have revealed that smart devices are increasingly the targets of hackers who wish to gain access to your home, your devices, or your sensitive data. Enterprising criminals can do this by hacking into your wi-fi network as well as individual devices.
Once they’re in, cybercriminals can engage in behavior that ranges from prankish and annoying (turning lights off and on) to dangerous (unlocking doors or accessing personal/financial information stored on devices connected to your home network). Thankfully, by taking steps to secure your home network and each device connected to it, you can prevent this type of breach from happening.
Protecting your smart home ranges from starting with the basics and securing your wi-fi network to changing settings and passwords on individual devices. If you’re uncertain about how to complete any of these steps, your home security provider can walk you through the process of making sure that there are no potential holes in your layers of digital protection.
4 Steps to a Secure Smart Home
Top Tips for Home Router Security
Having a secure smart home starts with your wi-fi router. It not only connects all of your devices; it’s also the piece of hardware responsible for connecting your devices to the outside world. By hacking into your router, criminals can gain access to computers, phones, and smart devices throughout your home.
To prevent unwanted digital guests and home automation hackers, you need to take steps to establish home router security. This starts with changing the defaults that come with your router. While it’s common for homeowners to use the router provided by their Internet Service Provider (ISP), the most popular routers are easily hacked. These types of routers come with widely-known and easy-to-hack default settings and passwords that homeowners often leave unchanged.
After your Internet is installed, immediately change the service set identifier (SSID) and router password. Choose a long password consisting of a complicated strand of letters, numbers, and symbols. (Check out this Popular Science article for tips on picking a secure password.) With your home router security all set, work with your home security company to safely connect all of your home automation and smart devices.
Setting Up a Secondary Home Network
The best smart home security plan involves creating layers of protection for your home and its devices. One of these layers should involve installing a secondary home network. While many homeowners will do this to create a network for guests and visitors to use, it’s also an excellent strategy to sequester your smart devices away from your primary wi-fi network.
With your secondary home network set up, should a breach occur, any sensitive information such as health and financial documents will be secured on your primary network. To help prevent your secondary network from being hacked, make sure to update the default settings on all your devices. Like routers, most devices come with usernames and passwords that are simple to guess and access.
Another way to keep your smart devices and secondary home network secure is by downloading and installing all software updates provided by device manufacturers. These updates often include critical security patches that keep your device protected from viruses and cybercriminals. These updates are often issued in response to security holes that are uncovered by the manufacturer and when they’re not installed, they leave devices and networks vulnerable to a breach.
Most devices will notify owners when an update is available and many have settings that allow updates to auto-install. In an article about “drive-by” hacking, Forbes lists software updates among its top tips for securing smart home devices. As with installing a primary router, your home security company can work with you to make sure your secondary home network is properly secured.
How to Set Up Home Two-Factor Authentication
Another key to a secure smart home is using two-factor authentication on any device that it’s available. Two-factor authentication is a security tactic used to confirm a user’s identity with at least two types of credentials. Rather than simply entering a password, home two-factor authentication requires a user to authorize any logins via a secondary method. This might be in the form of an object such as a swipe card, a defining characteristic (your fingerprint), or a code sent via email or text. Some smartphones even use facial recognition as a two-factor authentication method.
Why take the time to set up this added security step? While it may be tempting to skip this step and simply rely on passwords to access your devices, home two-factor authentication is a highly effective way to deter wifi and BlueTooth hackers. Cybercriminals are experts at hacking even complex passwords, and two-factor authentication creates an extra wall between hackers and your home, devices, and data.
To enjoy this extra layer of protection, always activate two-factor authentication on all capable devices. Skeptical that two-factor authentication really works? In a recent study involving researchers from New York University and the University of California, San Diego, Google determined that setting up two-factor authentication helped prevent 100% of automated bot attacks.
Why You Should Disable Home UPnP
For years, consumers have been familiar with Plug and Play devices such as a keyboard or a mouse that can be plugged in or turned on and immediately work seamlessly with your computer without lots of complex reconfiguration. With the increase in popularity of wireless devices and smart devices, Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) has become the norm. In short, UPnP allows connected devices to easily discover each other on a network for data sharing. Home UPnP means that your smartphone, Alexa, home security system, and other devices can all communicate and interact with each other.
Although it’s highly convenient, home UPnP can leave your system and devices vulnerable to attack. For example, hackers can install a virus, worm, Trojan horse, or another type of malicious program on a computer connected to your network. Because the router will have been programmed to automatically allow access from that computer, UPnP means that it could allow malicious programs to bypass the firewall.
A few years ago, the Mirai attack involved cybercriminals targeting IoT devices that run on a specific processor and infecting them with malware to turn them into bots that can carry out attacks on other devices. Many common devices were vulnerable, from baby monitors and home appliances to security cameras, DVRs, and even smoke detectors. The Mirai code was even used to bring down Dyn, the domain registration services provider, in the fall of 2016. The code still exists…and has continued to evolve.
As a final step towards creating a truly secure smart home, always disable UPnP settings. Although this takes a bit more time than simply connecting them and letting them run, it will prevent home UPnP devices (such as your video surveillance system) from automatically sharing data with malicious users on unsafe networks. As with all of the steps to securing your network and devices, if you’re unsure of how to disable these settings, work with your home security provider to set up your devices.
At ProTech Security, we have a strong history of experience, innovation, and customer service. The ProTech Security Advantage is more than 35 years of service in Northeast Ohio and a strong commitment to providing quality, cost-effective protection for homes, businesses, educational institutions, and government facilities. To see what ProTech Security can do for you, contact us today.