From the introduction of the first TV remote in the 1950s to today's state-of-the-art personal and home technology, we just can’t seem to get enough of the latest gadgets to make life easier and more enjoyable. However, these smart devices can pose risks in our homes. Our team is seeing an uptick in privacy violations, data breaches, and more. Read on to learn about smart device safety.
A smart device is any device that connects to an app, the internet, a local network, or another device using a wireless connection, like Bluetooth, Zigbee Wi-Fi, or 5G. Commonly used smart devices include smartphones, tablets, laptops, smartwatches, smart doorbells, smart bulbs, smart thermostats, and other personal electronics.
Smart homes use internet-connected devices, such as light switches, smart locks, and refrigerators, that can autonomously flick on your lights, open doors, or even alert you when you’re running low on milk. Convenient? Yes, but it can come at a price.
A smart home means your home has an intelligent system connecting with your appliances to automate specific tasks. A smart home is typically remotely controlled. You can use a smart home system to program your sprinklers, set and monitor your home security system and cameras, or control appliances like your refrigerator, air conditioning, and heating.
The network of intelligent devices and smart homes are categorized under the Internet of Things (IoT) technology. All these devices can connect to the internet, gather information, and exchange data with other devices—making them vulnerable to many security risks that can affect your personal info and your property. With the click of an app or voice command, internet-connected devices communicate with one another to complete a task. However, this online connection also exposes the user to hackers who may steal personal information, like usernames and passwords, and access to banking and online shopping accounts. They have also been known to gain control of devices, like security cameras or baby monitors, to scare or manipulate users and monitor their activity.
Additionally, smart speakers with voice activation, like Alexa, are always listening and ready for commands. They record and store conversations, too. Many speaker device vendors have large teams of employees whose job is to listen to these conversations, supposedly for targeting ads. Ever wonder how a simple conversation results in a bombardment of targeted ads directed to your phone and laptop? Coincidence? Not really.
Most smart devices do not have security or privacy controls to protect sensitive data transmissions. The lack of authentication and encryption allows device vendors and manufacturers to use and share your data collected through their devices and apps. It makes your personal information easily accessible to potential hackers. Without secure controls, hackers can establish a direct connection to your devices while bypassing any firewall restrictions. The lack of security also allows unauthorized peeking or stalking by cybercriminals.
The way you set up and use your IoT devices is significant. Pay the same attention to the security of your IoT device as you do to the security of your phone and computer. The Federal Trade Commission has some significant steps to protect your info on devices in, Securing Your Internet-Connected Devices at Home.
There are. a few simple steps you can take to protect your home and devices.
If you don’t need the features that use the internet, disable them. An intelligent refrigerator should still be able to keep your food cold, even if it can’t connect to the internet. Turning off features you don’t need can help you stay in control of your own security and privacy.
Updates not only give you new features and improvements, they also fix vulnerabilities that attackers can exploit. Most of these devices have settings that enable updates to take place automatically. If the vendor no longer provides updates to your device and alternate security add-ons will not fully protect it, consider getting a new device or disabling the smart features. Enabling two-factor or multi-factor authentication and strong encryption is also a great way to secure your info. Additionally, use firewalls on your computers and router.
New devices come with a default password that might be easily found online. Change that default password to one unique and long, then store it somewhere safe. Change your passwords frequently, and never use the same password for multiple devices. If you use apps on your phone or laptop for some of your smart devices, you should also make sure both are secure and password protected.
Most WiFi routers provide a “guest” network that can be used to keep your laptop and mobile phone away from other smart home devices you can’t control. As a reasonable security precaution, keep your IoT devices on this guest network to prevent them from communicating with your essential personal devices. Get a Virtual Private Network (VPN) for added security if you use public WiFi.
Security professionals have reviewed the most popular IoT devices. Look for any alerts to significant security issues that may have been reported about the device you want to purchase. Check the privacy policies and permissions for apps on the device. Doing some research before buying can save you a lot of future problems.
The convenience and ease of using innovative home technology can be incredibly enticing. Make sure you pay attention to the safety and security of each device before buying and take the necessary precautions to protect your personal information before connecting. It can make all the difference between an excellent investment for your lifestyle and a costly one.
If you have experienced something traumatic, fraudulent, or privacy violations due to smart devices in your home, we may be able to help.