What are smart homes?
Smart homes are residencies that use internet-connected devices that a homeowner can control, monitor, and manage remotely. These devices include appliances and systems that make our lives easier and more convenient: heating, lighting, home security system, kitchen or bathroom appliances, and entertainment systems. Remote control of such devices enables residents to adapt their home devices to their needs, save energy, and monitor security.
Are smart homes secure?
It wouldn’t be fair to claim that smart home devices are safe or unsafe. Smart home safety and security depend on the devices’ selection, configuration, and network security. If you lay the proper groundwork for your smart home, you can enjoy its benefits without risking your privacy.
As convenient as controlling a light bulb from your bed or using voice commands to play music may sound, smart home appliances come with some security risks. Research before you purchase and prioritize smart devices that offer robust security features to avoid cyberattacks like phlashing, unauthorized access, and loss of sensitive data.
Main smart home security risks
The more unprotected smart hardware you use inside your house, the more you risk your privacy. Someone can listen to you through a voice assistant, watch you through the security camera, track your location, steal data, or even break into your house through your smart door locks. Let’s discuss the security threats that come with unprotected smart home devices:
- Data and identity theft. Unprotected smart home accessories often store sensitive data, including personal details, passwords, and banking information. If hackers gain access to your personal information, they can use it for fraudulent purposes and identity theft.
- Device hijacking. In a device hijacking scenario, an attacker gains control over a smart device. If their attempt to seize control is successful, a hacker can manipulate your security cameras, break a smart lock, or breach your smart speakers security. Unauthorized control of your devices might put your privacy or even your well-being at risk.
- Man-in-the-middle (MITM) attacks. Attackers may intercept the communication between two devices on your smart home network. For example, they can sneak into the conversation between your smartphone and your smart thermostat and send fake requests to either device. The hacker can take control of your devices, harming the functionality and possibly installing malware.
- Distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks. A DDoS attack overloads a device or service with multiple fake requests, which causes it to slow down or become unresponsive. A hacker attempting to run a DDoS attack on your smart home could disrupt the operation of the most essential house appliances, leading to inconvenience or potential security issues.
- Permanent denial-of-service (PDoS) attacks. PDoS attacks go a little further than DDoS. An attacker can permanently damage a device, making it useless. PDoS is a real smart home device security threat because it interrupts the service, which may lead to financial loss due to the need for device replacement.
While smart home technology enhances our daily lives, it also presents new security challenges. Awareness of these risks and taking all the necessary precautions may protect you from falling victim to hackers.
Smart home safety and privacy tips
As we fill our homes with connected devices, we expose our cybersafety to new risks we’ve never considered. Here’s a list of essential tips to help you protect your smart home:
- Secure your Wi-Fi network. Encrypt your Wi-Fi network by hiding your network name from prying eyes. A secure Wi-Fi connection will make it more difficult for hackers to access your home devices and private information.
- Use unique and strong passwords. Avoid simple and easily guessable passwords for your home devices and accounts. Create unique and complex passwords using a combination of upper- and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters, making it harder for computer hackers to access your personal or financial accounts. And never reuse the same passwords for different accounts.
- Enable two-factor authentication. Implement two-factor authentication (2FA) for your accounts to create an extra layer of security. 2FA requires an additional authentication method when logging in to your personal accounts. It may be a text message or an authentication app.
- Research before purchasing a smart device. Before buying a smart device, look into the manufacturer’s security policies and customer reviews. Understanding a product’s security features and reputation will help you make an assured purchase.
- Use a virtual private network (VPN) on your router. Secure your home network by setting up a VPN on the router, which will encrypt outgoing data and mask your IP address, making it harder for a hacker to access the network.
- Keep your software up to date. Update your software and firmware regularly. Updates usually contain the latest security patches for existing vulnerabilities and reduce the risk of hackers gaining unauthorized access to your home devices and sensitive information.
- Install trustworthy security software. Installation of reputable and reliable security software on your smart home devices may help you protect your devices from malware and viruses and help detect if the device was infected.
- Use a firewall and intrusion detection system. While a firewall monitors your incoming and outgoing network traffic, an intrusion detection system catches intruders carrying out malicious activities on your home network.
- Factory reset your devices before you sell them. Before giving away an old device, perform a factory reset to remove all personal information and settings. This will ensure your smart home security and prevent your sensitive data from falling into the wrong hands.
As convenient as smart home technology is, it comes with your home security and privacy risks. By implementing the above security measures into your smart home network, you can enjoy smart home benefits with peace of mind.