By Matthew James
Smart homes are homes connected through the so-called Internet of Things (IoT). They have a number of smart devices and appliances that are connected to the internet, to each other, that can be operated remotely, or through smartphones and tablets.
This level of automation and technological upgrades of our houses and everyday lives has also improved our comfort levels and convenience in life. We tend to depend on technology a lot, and the number of smart homes and available gadgets is constantly growing.
This has, however, brought about new kinds of threats to our homes – cyber threats and risks, such as hackers. How exactly is your smart home at risk and what can you do to ensure proper cybersecurity for it? Find out and make your home security a top priority.
Cybersecurity risks: the source of the problem
- The market
When it comes to the security of all the smart, high-tech gadgets, devices and appliances that are released practically daily, it is not very often a top priority. The first source of the problem, therefore, would be the market itself.
The basic principle of any kind of market is supply and demand. It supplies as much as it can of what is currently in demand. And in that highly competitive process, sales rates and making a profit is what matters the most. So, the manufacturers and the market appeal to the consumer with the aesthetics of the product, its convenience, and many functions. Very often, they neglect to point out their level of security and safety.
Unfortunately, more often than not, security is not the manufacturer’s top priority. Making the products cyber secure is not what attracts consumers, and it is not what will sell the product. This leads us to the other part of the problem.
- The consumer
As consumers, buyers of these smart devices, we are a part of the market, as well as a part of the problem. We focus on the less important details of the product too often. Of course, design and functionality are very important, but security should always come first. As our way of life upgrades and changes, so do the security risks. They change and adapt to the circumstances.
The responsibility of the consumer is to ask a question and get informed about the product. You need to pay attention to details and get ‘deeper’ into the product. You need to know how secure it is or how to properly secure it against potential cyber threats once you install it in your home. It should be specified on the product, or you can ask the salesperson.
What can be at risk and how?
When making home improvements while moving, renovating or upgrading your home, the focus is nowadays primarily on making it a smart, connected and convenient home. Everything within reach, or better to say within a click, easily managed and controlled.
But there is another side to it as well. Everything that is connected to the internet, to your Wi-Fi, and that can be remotely controlled, can be a cybersecurity risk. Here are some examples of smart homes devices or appliances that can become a cybersecurity risk, and that may not have crossed your mind in this context.
- Smart Televisions
Smart television sets can be used for some serious invasion of privacy. If hackers manage to get through to it, they can use the camera on the front of your TV, if you have one, and see everything that is going on inside that room. They can basically get a free live stream video of your movements and your house, which can lead to some more serious crimes.
- Smart cars
Smart cars are experiencing a surge in popularity in recent times. As with any other smart product, they bring about more convenience and functional upgrades. But they can also be in danger of cybersecurity threats.
When an increased number of the car’s functions and commands is automated or connected to the internet, it makes it more vulnerable to hacker attacks. They can take over your system or commands and put you and your vehicle in great danger. That’s why it is very important to protect your smart devices as much as you can.
How can you protect a smart home?
- Start with the basicsThe first thing you should do is get informed about the product before you buy it, research its security settings or ask the salesperson at the spot. Make sure to know what the risks are, how you can prevent them if you can upgrade your security and how to use it safely.
Add passwords to all of your devices and controls, and make sure that they are strong and not something obvious such as birthdays. Always change the product’s default password, the one that is preset by the manufacturer.
- Secure your networkSecuring your Wi-Fi network to which everything in your house is connected is very important because it protects your private information. Your network is best protected by the WPA2 (Wi-Fi Protected Access II) encryption protocol, so make sure to activate it. The most common protection protocol is still the Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP), but it is weaker and more easily breached.
- Create multiple network identities
If you can, and depending on your router’s capabilities and your gateway, it is recommended to create two or more network identities, or SSIDs. If you don’t know how to do it yourself, ask a friend with a bit more expertise. You can then use one identity for all the online and banking transactions, and the other for the rest of the devices and more general online activity.
- Install firewall and security software
Firewall is what protects your network from outside threats by restricting incoming connections that may harm you or steal your information. Every network should have one. It is recommended to set it up in the way that it allows traffic only on ports that are specific to your devices.Apart from that, make sure you always have the latest security software on all of your smart devices, as well as the control devices such as phones and tablets. This makes it harder for the hacker to take control.
As much as we deem important to keep up with the latest trends in technology, it is as important, or even more so, to keep up with the possible cybersecurity risks. Information is key here, and knowledge is power. To know how to defend yourself and provide the best security for your home, it is important to know what you are faced with. If you follow these tips, take proper steps and precautions, you can enjoy all the benefits a smart home brings while being safe and secure.
About the Author
Matthew James is a freelance writer specialized in home improvement, smart technology, architecture & design. He has a love of outdoors and spending time with his dog Cooper. You can reach him on Facebook and Instagram.