Protect Your Smart Home
The Internet of Things (IoT) encompasses the billions of devices that are connected to the web all over the world. Smart home devices, like virtual assistants, make our lives more convenient but can also present serious security risks and personal intrusion. With over 7 billion connected IoT devices in use worldwide and growing, there is no better time to secure your home against cybercriminals seeking information that could be used against you or your family, and lock down devices that may be collecting more information than you want to share.
Your Privacy and Security is at Risk
Your security camera knows when your children leave the house and when they return. Your fridge scans its belongings and places a grocery order when items are low. Your home is filled with the latest “Smart” speakers, medical devices, children’s toys and beyond — and all these gadgets hold important personal information that hackers are working to access. Although they seem harmless, home IoT devices and their mobile applications often have little to no security measures to prevent third parties and cybercriminals from accessing your personal information and monitoring your daily routine.
There were three times as many malware attacks on smart devices in the first half of 2018 as there were in all of 2017, according to a 2018 Kaspersky Lab’s Study.
Internet routers are the hub of connectivity for these devices, and they are relatively easy to hack. Once a router is breached, criminals can infiltrate all your connected devices. If you use a mobile app to run a smart home accessory, your family’s smartphones and all the information stored within may also be at risk.
What’s Happening with Your Data?
Our devices are constantly listening, watching, and gathering information. If cybercriminals can hack into your devices at home, the amount of data they can access is literally through the roof.
In December 2018, an Amazon member requested his personal data on file in accordance with the rights granted consumers by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Instead of his own data, he received a file containing someone else’s voice recordings — exposing detailed information about their job, use of public transportation and smart home devices, musical tastes, and personal information of their partner and friends.
A test by Consumer Reports found that all smart televisions are susceptible to intrusion by even the least skilled hacker, as well as collecting detailed information about your viewing habits. Malicious activity aside, through the automatic content recognition embedded in smart TVs, you are giving the manufacturer permission to track the shows you watch and then share that data with third parties for programming recommendations and ad targeting. And, it’s difficult to know what else they do with the aggregate data once it’s been compiled. They’re depending on the consumer not understanding the ramifications of those extensive terms and conditions agreements that give the manufacturer license to access and store your data.
Many smart device manufacturers are in the business of collecting and selling our information for corporate gain. Do your research to find out how and what kind of data is being collected and set limitations where possible. What would happen if that information landed in the wrong hands because of a security incident at one of those third-parties? It may be worth giving up some functionality of your smart device to keep your data private — and safe.
Tips to Protect Your Home IoT Devices
Before investing in smart home accessories, consider the risks associated with each new device. Be sure to purchase from manufacturers that have a strong reputation for security. Review the types of information gathered and change permissions to reduce the amount of accessible data, especially if the accessory includes a mobile app you install on your phone.
- Safeguard Your Internet Router. Set up your router with a unique name and create strong passwords to prevent others from accessing your Wi-Fi.
- Change Default Settings. Did your new device come with a default user name and password? Be sure to change the settings before you start using them.
- Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN). A VPN safeguards your devices while your family roams the internet.
- Automatically Install Software Updates. Most smart home devices don’t update their firmware automatically. Avoid security gaps that criminals can use to access your personal information by checking for updates monthly.
- Consider Turning Off Automatic Content Recognition. Consumer Reports provides a step-by-step guide to limiting the data collected by your smart TV.
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