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6 ways to protect yourself from smart home hacking

6 ways to protect yourself from smart home hacking
You can protect your smart home devices from hackers with these six steps.
Despite the continuing advancements in smart home technologies, cybersecurity concerns remain unabated. This is not just about privacy. The digital economy has made steady inroads into people's everyday lives with smart devices, creating a perfect environment for hackers to attempt stealing money. Smart home hacking is a major concern especially as more and more people work from home. 

Ensuring cybersecurity should be a priority for vendors because even a minor vulnerability can erode customer trust that companies build up with time, money, and effort. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. In a recent blog post, Michael Pyle, CSO & Vice President of Cyber Security for the Building & IT business unit of Schneider Electric, provided six strategies that would help customers ensure that their devices are as cyber-protected as possible.

Related post: Smart home trends for 2021

"Many smart devices, such as virtual assistants, smart doorbells with IP cameras, smart thermostats, and even smart TV's, are NOT designed with the highest level of security in mind," Payle said. "Because of that, they are unfortunately becoming lucrative cybercriminal targets. Rather than serving the function, they were intended for, compromised devices serve the whims of the cybercriminal, enabling them to steal data like banking credentials, viewing habits, and browsing histories. In some cases, this data can be used to spur ransomware threats."

1.Maintain a separate network for smart devices

If your router supports VLANs or allows setting up a guest network, you can use a network specifically for the smart devices. This will be different from the main home network that you use for financial transactions and hence minimize hackers' chances of stealing money through any vulnerabilities in a smart device.

2.Change default credentials (yes, we can't repeat this enough)

"A cable modem, which enables a home network to connect to the outside world of the Internet, is also an area of cybersecurity concern," Payle explained. "In some cases, the cable modems provide router and WiFi functionality. Sometimes a separate router/WiFi access point can be used. The credentials for cable modems are on a visible label affixed to the modem itself." 

Some of the latest routers will ask you to change the default password on the first use, which is a great thing. But even if it doesn't, one of the first steps after setting up a network device should be to change the default credentials. While you are at it, disable remote access as well.

3.Enable auto-update of firmware

Most of your smart home devices would have an auto-update feature that you can enable. This will help companies apply security patches to the device whenever a vulnerability is discovered. If auto-update is not enabled, you will have to keep track of updates from the company and ensure that they are downloaded and installed. Understandably, this is a difficult task for many people.

4.SSID name change to avoid smart home hacking 

A default SSID that reveals the type of device you use could help hackers find vulnerabilities to that device.

"When a list of local WiFi networks is opened on your laptop or phone, SSIDs (Service Set Identifier) is displayed, some of which may come from neighbors' networks," Payle said. "Wireless routers or access points broadcast SSIDs so nearby devices can find and display any available WiFi networks. For an added level of cybersecurity protection, a user should change the SSID of his or her WiFi, so it's not immediately known what type of WiFi hardware is being using."

5.Invest in a strong firewall

This may cost a bit more than your initial budget for a smart device, but having a firewall device can go a long way in protecting your home. These firewalls that can cost anywhere between US$200 to $1000 can track the digital signatures of incoming traffic and alert if any malicious content is detected.

6.Use a VPN

VPNs had become more popular than before after COVID-19 forced much of the world to work from home. A VPN provides a secure tunnel between a remote worker and a corporate network to have no third-party breach. Several VPN solutions are available in the market, phones, tablets, and computers. 
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