steel blue mediataxi faresteel blue media

Smart homes offer convenience and security risks. Here’s what you can do to stop hackers from taking control of your smart speaker, thermostat, doorbell, and other connected devices.

Your smart home is a futuristic marvel, but when cameras can be hacked to spy on us, microphones on smart speakers can be manipulated with lasers, and entire security systems can be compromised by a smart plug, it’s understandable if you have reservations about connecting your house to the internet.

But there’s no need to avoid the benefits of smart home devices entirely. The trick is to understand the risks and take advantage of available security features. Whether you have a full network of smart kitchen appliances or just a simple voice assistant, there are steps you can take to ensure no one messes with your stuff.

Consider What You Need

Before you rush to order a smart speaker, thermostat, or video doorbell, consider your comfort level when it comes to balancing convenience with security and privacy. A security camera might offer some form of protection, but are you okay with footage being uploaded to the internet? A voice assistant like Alexa never sleeps, always listening for your command. Is that creepy or a perk? Figure out what you need from a smart home, and where privacy trumps convenience for you.

Secure Your WI-FI Network

Out of the box, most routers use a model-specific SSID and either aren’t secured or use a generic password like “admin,” making it easy for hackers to access your home Wi-Fi and poke around at your connected smart home devices.

The first thing you should do is secure your Wi-Fi network with a strong password. How you do that varies slightly by device, but the basics are the same; here’s how to get started. If your router allows it, also consider changing the SSID, which is just the name of your Wi-Fi network (like PCMag_Home).

While you’re there, make sure you are using the highest security protocol possible. In most cases, WPA2 will be your best bet, but newer routers will have the superior WPA3 standard available.

You might also like: How To Write Copy That Sells in a Post-Pandemic World

Update Firmware

Firmware is the low-level software that powers your router and other Internet of Things (IoT) gadgets. You can access your router’s firmware to change the password and configure various settings.

Companies roll out bug fixes and new features over the internet for your other connected devices, and many will automatically update when connected to Wi-Fi. Registering your smart device with the manufacturer may help ensure these updates get to your gadgets.

However, there are still many devices that require you to proactively select the Update button to get the latest goodies and security patches. Don’t ignore these updates; running older firmware versions could leave your device vulnerable to hackers looking to exploit unpatched flaws.

You can configure your device to automatically update if you’re willing to accept the potential risk involving automatic downloads from third-party servers. Otherwise, your best bet is to set a reminder to check for updates regularly. Amazon(Opens in a new window)Arlo(Opens in a new window)Google(Opens in a new window)Ring(Opens in a new window)Wyze(Opens in a new window), and others have details about how to check and update your firmware.

You might also like: Countries Top CEOs Fear a Recession

Replace Outdated Routers

Chances are you probably bought a new phone or laptop in the last few years. But what about your router? Has it been gathering dust on a shelf for far too long? If your internet performance is not yet suffering, the security of your connected devices almost certainly is. An aging router means aging security protocols and an easier access point for bad actors.

If you need a new router, the newest home internet standard is Wi-Fi 6 (and 6E). There are already many good Wi-Fi 6 routers. You can also choose from our roundups of the best routersgaming routers, and Wi-Fi mesh networks.

How to Protect Your Smart home from Hackers, smart home
  • Twitter

Manage Your Account Passwords

With your Wi-Fi network secured, you now need to protect the individual devices and services that connect to it. Many smart devices are controlled through a connected mobile app, and you’ll need to set up an account with each one.

Using the same password for everything is convenient, but it’s a security nightmare. If one of those accounts is breached and the password exposed, hackers now potentially have the keys to all the other accounts on which you used that password.

Instead, create a unique password that you can remember but that others won’t be able to guess. You may want to use a random password generator to produce hard-to-guess codes and a password manager to remember them all for you.

Enable Two-Factor Authorization

Strong passwords are one thing, but you can take it a step further by enabling two-factor authentication on the services that support it. This will mean that, even if a hacker gets their hands on your password, they won’t be able to log into your account without the additional six-digit code that is used to authenticate your identity.

Head over to the security settings for the accounts you wish to protect and set this up by connecting the service to your phone number or an authenticator app, such as Google Authenticator or Authy. Now when you log in, those accounts will require your password, plus a second form of authentication. This may be a six-digit code sent via text message or generated by your authenticator of choice.

Many smart home devices support 2FA, including Amazon Echo, Arlo, Google Nest, Ring, and many more. Our guide runs through who has it and how to set it up.

Split Up the Network

A 2019 FBI warning(Opens in a new window) stated that “your fridge and your laptop should not be on the same network. Keep your most private, sensitive data on a separate system from your other IoT devices.” After all, when a hacker gains access to your unsecured refrigerator, they do it to then break into your wireless network to steal data from your laptop or phone.

You can prevent this by putting your devices on multiple networks. Most routers allow you to create a secondary guest network, which can also be used for those smart home devices. This not only clears up bandwidth for browsing and streaming but can potentially separate your IoT devices from the data you want to protect.

So now if you do get hacked, any malware that infects your smart home devices is unlikely to make the jump(Opens in a new window) and infect devices on your main network.

Monitor Your Network

If you’re still concerned about network security, you can manually monitor who is on your Wi-Fi. The program Wireless Network Watcher(Opens in a new window), for instance, will show you every device connected through your router so you can crosscheck them against your owned devices.

For extra protection against network vulnerabilities, we recommend investing in a comprehensive security suite to protect against whatever a bad actor may try to inject into your home network.

However, there are also devices that can monitor your network for vulnerabilities. Firewalla sells devices that allow you to see and manage all network devices and their actions. (We gave the Firewalla Purple our Editors’ Choice honors.) There is also the Fingbox(Which opens in a new window), which can detect vulnerabilities, block unknown devices, and do a lot more.


Article courtesy of PCMag written by Jason Cohen

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This