Be smarter than your smart devices: Consumer IoT security tips

Unless turned off, smart speakers are always listening.

Our recent post on creating a Smart Home by using connected devices brings us to a related and critical aspect of IoT: Security. Given the myriad IoT options, as a consumer, you need to be smarter than your smart devices. There are numerous helpful resources and tips available on the topic of security. Here are our top two:

1. Establish strong passwords and a secure home network.

Ryan Polk says it best: “When it comes to Internet and privacy, lazy and and paranoid is a terrible combination.” A Policy Advisor at the Internet Society, Polk authored a helpful piece entitled “The Lazy Person’s Guide to Better Online Privacy.” From shopping for connected to devices to updating your passwords, applications and turning on strong encryption and two-factor authentication, Polk’s article is a helpful overview of practical security tips.

2. Make sure the device manufacturer or developer can contact you.

This is not an issue when purchasing direct, as the seller will likely require at least an email address from you.  When purchasing from a third party vendor, it is very important to either register with the warranty card or go to the manufacturer’s or developer’s website and register the product or app purchased.

The Online Trust Alliance (OTA) recommends that consumers routinely assess their security and privacy settings on all IoT devices, the same way you would change the batteries in a smoke detector.  According to the OTA, many consumers cite safety as a top reason for initially purchasing home automation and other smart devices. However, OTA reports that research indicates that security of the devices and privacy concerns are barriers to IoT adoption. To that end, OTA offers a detailed IoT Security Checklist for Consumers. With tips on privacy and security, this is a must read, the checklist also provides a website to visit for updates to the recommendations.

IoT security is a moving target due to the phenomenal growth of the industry itself.  The only way to ensure a safe and open Internet is for everyone to provide security to the extent that they can.  With emerging guidelines from the FTC and the FCC, two out of the three entities will have standards to meet.  Even with these standards, consumers STILL have to do their part.