Do you have a smart device on your holiday shopping list this year? With everything from smart thermostats and washing machines to smart toasters and watches…IoT (Internet of Things) is everywhere! According to experts, an average home will have around 10 IoT-connected devices, like the smart litter box that I bought for my cats. These gadgets are connected to the internet and collect data (in this case, how many times my cats use the box!) and can communicate with other devices (like when I receive a notification on my smartphone that it’s time to change the waste bin).
With more than 30 billion devices in use today, and that number growing exponentially each year, it’s important to be aware of the risks of connecting every aspect of our lives to the internet. Yes, IoT devices save time, but while bad actors may not be interested in your cat’s hygiene habits, security vulnerabilities could allow them to:
Gain access to your Wi-Fi network
Spy on you using the devices’ camera and/or microphone
Install malware on the devices that allow them to access your personal information
Launch cyberattacks against other systems
To learn how to outsmart your connected devices, here are some of the things you can do:
Set up your passwords and usernames: Just like with your computer, phone, and online accounts, a strong password is essential for securing your smart device. When you are setting up/configuring your new gadget, change the default username and password. If you have the option, enable multi-factor authentication for extra security.
Install updates regularly & read the manual: Some devices install updates automatically, and some don’t- you can typically check this in the instruction manual or on the product website. Regular updates will help you stay on top of the latest security patches. You will also need to keep the app for each device up to date, so don’t forget to check this too.
Set up a guest network: All your devices are interconnected, which means they can be used to access other parts of your network. Set up a secondary or “guest” network for your IoT-connected devices, and reserve your private network for computers, printers, data storage devices, and mobile phones. This will help protect personal information if one of your devices is hacked. Plus, if a device is compromised, you can switch your guest network off to deny access until you have a fix in place.
Disconnect devices or features you don’t use: If you no longer use a device, disconnect it. Keeping it on your network creates a potential access point that you’ll need to secure. If there are features of a device that you don’t use (such as geolocation, microphones, etc.), disable them to prevent any hackers from taking advantage.
Factory reset devices before you discard them: Finally, remember to wipe your personal information from devices before you dispose of them. You can do this by restoring factory settings.
No device will ever be 100 per cent safe, including our computers, but if you shop smart and follow some simple steps, you can make your gadgets as secure as possible.
We wish you and your loved ones (including your pets) a safe, healthy, and happy holiday season!