By John Gateru.
It might sound demeaning to ask respectable members of society if they watch cartoons, right? But I’m going to ask anyway.
Have you ever watched the Jetson or Dexter laboratory? Well, if you haven’t, let me fill you in. These two cartoons share one thing in common – they represent the future of smart home and the use of robotics to make our lives easy.
Let’s take, for instance, the Jetsons. This cartoon, which was produced in 1962, was extraordinarily futurist and prophesied, so to speak, some of the smart devices that have become ubiquitous in modern houses. But it can get better. The Jetson and Dexter show the possibilities of future smart homes and cities – which to some may seem like science-fiction, but it is already happening now.
Enough of the cartoons. Let’s get to the bolt and nuts of smart homes.
What is a smart home?
What is a smart home? A smart home is a house where electronic devices are controlled via application, voice, or accessed remotely. But how are the devices able to interact with one another, you may ask? Well, Smart home uses a range of wireless communication such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Zigbee, and Z-wave. However, the most common is the Wi-Fi.
Different types of devices integrate with a smart home. As of this writing, there are hundreds of smarts devices you can incorporate into your house, and the list is growing daily.
Some examples of these devices are smart home security systems, robotic lawnmowers, cleaners, locks, lights, refrigerator, garage doors, kettle, sandwich maker, and thermostats.
Hi Alexa, Hi Google
Voice control is becoming a popular way of interacting, controlling, and managing smart home devices. Some of the most popular voice digital assistants are Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and Apple Siri.
While smart home devices make our life easier, they pose serious security risks. As with any other computing device – smart homes are prone to malicious attacks and hacking.
You see, technology can be used for good or bad. History is replete with an example where technology – meant to make life easy and increase happiness – is used for evil. Nonetheless, history has proven that darkness always gives way to light.
As the custodian of the light in cyberspace, we are here to hold your hand and show you 7 tips you can use to guard your smart home against cybercriminals.
Ready? Let’s go.
1. Ensure App Are Up-To-Date as Possible
Most of us are guilty of ignoring software updates or deferring them to a later time – which, of course, never come. The practice of neglecting updates in cyberspace is risky and should be discouraged.
Software updates are crucial because they contain critical patches to security holes. Most attackers take advantage of the loopholes and vulnerabilities in software to attack, corrupt, and steal data.
Studies show that most high impact cyberattacks target vulnerabilities in systems and third-party software. Furthermore, it has been shown that most attacks can be avoided by the simple practice of downloading, running, and installing updates.
For instance, British Airways, Equifax, and WannaCry attacks could have been avoided because the updates and patches had been released before the attack – but the companies choose to ignore.
If you don’t want to join these regrettable statistics, then make it a habit of updating on time because it eliminates weak spots in the system. We recommend setting the devices to update itself when new updates become available automatically.
2. Secure Your Wi-Fi
Securing your Wi-Fi is arguably one of the best ways to protect your smart home against cybercriminals who might try to intercept your wireless communication and gain access to your home.
Most smart home devices device uses Wi-Fi as the primary method of communication. Therefore, to make your smart home immune to cyber-attack, you need to start by securing your Wi-Fi router.
There are several ways you can keep your router safe such as:
a) Reset your router periodically, say, once in a week.
b) Upgrade the router, especially if it is old and out-of-date.
c) Use a Wi-Fi router with a recognized firewall to protect malicious programs from invading your smart home system.
d) Install a router that encrypts communication – to make it hard to intercept.
e) Change the password of your router from the default admin or password – This should be done immediately you buy the device.
3. Embrace Two-Factor Authentication
Two-factor authentication has become a popular way of securing your devices. However, most people feel the two-way process of authenticating slow them down as it demands confirmation on another device.
Two-factor authentication uses two strands of security to confirm your identity, which makes it difficult for hackers to get into your account. Thus, it is advisable to use this method of authentication if your smart devices support it.
4. Change Default Setting
Most new smart devices come with the default settings, thus making them vulnerable by design. To make it worse, most users do not change the default settings when they buy new gadgets and are unaware of the security risk this practice poses. Security experts recommend changing the default passwords in the router, SSH, and Telnet.
It has been said that on the internet, the devil is in the default (setting). According to an article published in The Guardian, 95% of users don’t change the default setting. This has been come to be known as the rule of default.
Most devices and software come with standard default settings and passwords such as “admin” or “password.” Further, some settings permit the sharing of data with third parties, which can provide a hacker with easy access to your smart home.
You should go through the setting and change the manufactures settings you feel don’t contribute to the performance of your IoTs.
5. Set a strong password
While this might seem obvious, it is one of the most overlooked factors in cybersecurity. Most people neglect the need for a strong password– an observation that has compelled many companies to set a minimum threshold of a strong password.
Like many things in life, length, and strength are essential. Thus, you should have a strong and secure password. We suggest going for an alphanumeric password – a combination of numbers and letters – because it offers advanced security and makes it difficult for a cybercriminal to crack.
Finally, you should avoid common and easy to guess passwords such as your name, year, or 1234
6. Avoid Using Public Wi-Fi To Manage Your Devices
It can be tempting to turn on your robotic lawnmower in a public Wi-Fi so you can come home to a well-manicured lawn, right? While this is a brilliant idea, it is not safe.
As a general rule of thumb, whenever possible, you should avoid managing your smart devices on the public. You see, public Wi-Fi does not require username or password and is, therefore, the perfect breeding ground for malware attack and data theft.
Public Wi-Fi is prone to cyber-attack, and this can pose a risk to your home security. We, therefore, recommend you to use your data or a secure VPN to control smart home devices.
7. Avoid talking sensitive information
Remember the big brother who is always listening? Well, digital voice assistants such as Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri are always listening – waiting for the wake words.
You might be wondering what a wake word is? A wake word is a phrase that comes before the request you want the digital assistant to perform. Put it another way; it is the phrase that causes your voice device to start recording your command so it can be processed and executed.
While the device cannot begin to record without the wake word, mistakes can happen, and the wake word can slip in your conversation. Therefore, you should avoid discussing sensitive information such as security details or financial details, for example, PIN code and passwords over the digital voice assistant.
What are the best Cyber-security practices?
Now, while the above tips are useful to keep IoT and smart home devices safe, you should not forget the importance of traditional cyber-security mechanisms.
According to Fredrick, a cybersecurity expert at KCSFA, IoT, and smart home devices are merely connected to the IP network. Therefore, traditional cyber resilience defense mechanisms should be given priority. While making use of these cybersecurity tips is crucial for smart home security, “building security bottom-up as opposed to top-down is the only guarantee.” – We do not need to reinvent new ways to protect the IoT and smart home devices, he says.
Attack on smart homes is still rare because many people are yet to join the caravan of smart home devices. However, according to the recent data, the uptake of smart home devices is startling and is projected to reach 40 billion in the US market alone by 2020.
In the years to come, smart home security will be one of the major cyber threats. However, with good cybersecurity practices, you can make your home safe against potential intruders.
Cybersecurity issues should not be a reason for you not to invest in a smart home device. This would be analogous to fearing to buy a smartphone or a laptop because of hacking. The benefits far out ways the risk. Nonetheless, you need to pay attention to cybersecurity and adopt a way to mitigate them. This will enhance your security at home and prevent the possible leak of data.
Most developers of smart devices don’t put a lot of weight on security, and therefore, you need to take pro-active cybersecurity measures to keep yourself safe and prevent losses.