This week’s blog on smart home security is a collaboration with The Zebra, the nation’s leading insurance comparison site. By Guest Blogger: Taylor Covington (Author Bio at the bottom). All infographics are from The Zebra.
While the Internet of Things (IoT) has offered plenty of convenience for homeowners through Smart Home devices, they’re also more susceptible to hackers. Vendors may manufacture these devices without knowledge of how to connect them to the internet securely, or they may skip security steps that could be viewed as a hassle during installation. Similarly, since the home is supposed to be a sanctuary and a safe place, homeowners often don’t consider securing all their devices.
That lack of security can lead to some wild events. A Wisconsin couple had their thermostat raised to 90 degrees while their hacker talked to them and played vulgar music through a Nest camera in their kitchen. Another hacker claimed he was in the room of a 4-month-old baby. Even the FBI has warned against smart TV hacks.
How, then, can you work to prevent these kinds of attacks? Let’s take a look at the four most vulnerable rooms in your smart home—and what you can do to protect them.
The front porch is an especially vulnerable part of your smart home because they’re the most easily accessible. A hacker can spot security cameras, floodlights, doorbells, and smart locks from afar.
In fact, security cameras are the most vulnerable smart devices, making up a whopping 47 percent of overall hacking attempts. Hackers access the camera’s footage, giving them a real-time view of your home. They can then use the camera to see where things are located in your house—and when you’re not at home. Security cameras are often tied to a home security system; having access to the cameras makes it easier to disable the entire system.
How to make your front porch devices safer
Use two-factor authentication for your smart doorbell and security systems. This will prompt you to enter a code or scan your fingerprint in order to enter. For smart locks, you can use temporary codes while you’re out of town. That way, you can still let in a guest to watch your pet or check on your plants, but your primary password will remain secure. Finally, be sure to update your devices’ firmware regularly to fix known bugs and vulnerabilities.
Your living room is a hotspot for hackers because of its sheer number of “always-on” devices. From smart TVs, speakers, and plugs to smart vacuums (like Roomba) and thermostats (like Nest), someone can gain access even when you’re not using a device. Many newer TVs use facial recognition and can record audio, too, making your conversations susceptible.
And remember the Target hack from 2013? The hackers entered through the store’s heating and cooling system, grabbing information for more than 40 million credit and debit cards.
How to make your living room safer
These “always-on” devices are convenient but can be a dream for hackers. You can adjust the settings to restrict or remove this function from a device, enabling them only at certain times. Consider restricting devices with voice integrations, too, since someone could access them from outside your house.
Baby monitors and soothers have become more advanced, so too have smart toys, which include tablets designed for children. Unfortunately, this opens up additional vulnerabilities, like viruses from apps, stolen credit card information, and verbal harassment through monitors or cameras.
How to Make Your Kid’s Room Safer
Kids often don’t have the wherewithal to monitor potential security issues, so take the responsibility out of their hands. Require approval for the download of apps or purchase of products, and keep an eye on anything unrecognizable that appears on these devices.
It might seem like your kitchen is free of hackable devices, but a smart refrigerator or oven begs to differ. Voice controls can be used to adjust settings on your devices, such as changing expiration dates or temperatures. Even coffee makers are hackable, though the consequences of them being compromised may be a bit less severe.
You might move a device into your kitchen, like if you’re cooking with Alexa. Or you may have a hub (such as the Amazon Echo Show) that pairs with a light switch to offer advanced lighting control. Hubs are common targets—comprising about 15% of all hacks—because they act as a gateway to other devices.
How to Make Your Kitchen Safer
A hacker can gain access to your Wi-Fi network through one of these devices, so consider using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to protect against attacks. Two-factor authentication is also a good idea whenever possible.
Do you have the speed you need for a secure smart home?
It takes a lot of bandwidth to run a secure smart home. Slow speeds can mean buffering, and underperformance. Make sure you have the speed you need by downloading OTELCO’s free bandwidth calculator. Simply plugin in the number of devices and users in your home, and our calculator will determine the amount of bandwidth you need to keep your smart home running smoothly and safely. Download today!
Guest Author Bio: An “everyday expert,” Taylor researches the finer points of insurance, technology, and personal finance for The Zebra. She is also a frequent contributor to home and lifestyle publications. In her hometown city of Austin, Texas, she can be found reading at Half Priced Books or eating the world’s greatest pizza at Via 313.