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FBI warns about privacy security for smart home devices

FBI warns about privacy security for smart home devices
Smart home services might be designed to make users’ lives easier, however, they might also put their lives in danger.
Smart home services might be designed to make users’ lives easier, however, they might also put their lives in danger.
The FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) sent warnings to people that hackers might use smart home devices to invade their home network. Basically every connected smart home device that is regularly used in a home network was mentioned by the FBI, including digital assistants, smart watches, fitness trackers, home security devices, thermostats, refrigerators and light bulbs.
Instead of describing how hackers breach users’ privacy via connected devices, the US agency raised their concern by questions - “Do you know how the data is collected? And where it is going?” or “Are private pictures and passwords safely stored on your computer? Don’t be so sure.”
“Hackers can use that innocent device to do a virtual drive-by of your digital life. Unsecured devices can allow hackers a path into your router, giving the bad guys access to everything else on your home network that you thought was secure,” said the FBI in the announcement.
The FBI, did however, offer some digital defense steps to help users strengthen their smart home security.

Never keep the default password

Even before users start using their devices, they should change the default password. Default passwords are often easily designed. The password’s complexity isn’t enough to protect user’s data and privacy. “If you can’t find the information (to change the default password), consider moving on to another product,” suggested the FBI.
The agency also suggested that users should set passwords to be as long as possible and unique for IoT devices.

Notice the companion apps

Most smart home devices come with a mobile app on the user's smartphone. Those apps could also open the door for hackers to collect their personal data.
“These apps could be running in the background and using default permissions that you never realized you approved,” said the FBI.
Users should treat the smart home companion apps like every other mobile app, and understand what kind of personal information the apps are collecting. If they see unnecessary requests for data, they should reject the agreement.

Use separate networks

Although most households have one single network at home, the FBI advised to create multiple networks for data privacy. For example, the smart refrigerator and the smart light bulb should be on the different network as a user's laptop or smartphone.
“Keep your most private, sensitive data on a separate system from your other IoT devices,” suggested the FBI.

Keep the latest upgrade

As the connected devices have the latest version of firmware, this would provide the best level of security protection from the manufacturers. Especially when all firmware updates go by over-the-air (OTA) update. However, some devices can upgrade automatically while some require manual updating.
“Make sure all your devices are updated regularly. If automatic updates are available for software, hardware, and the operating system, turn them on,” said the FBI.
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