Nowadays, most television sets, baby monitors, and other digital devices have intelligent features and internet connectivity. Whether or not you use these smart features, smart devices pose security risks that you should be aware of and take precautions against.
If you use many features in your smart home, securing its components is even more important. Planning a smart home is the subject of a separate article we’ve written, so here we’ll concentrate on security.
The Biggest Smart Home Risks
Networked home appliances produce several essentially different types of risks:
1. The devices regularly exchange a large amount of data with the vendor. For instance, even if the media you’re watching is on a flash drive or external player, your smart TV can still recognize it. Some businesses profit greatly from spying on their clients. Even simpler appliances, like intelligent washing machines, gather and share data with their suppliers.
2. Hackers can take control of your smart device if it has an insecure password, is still set to its default operating system and hasn’t been modified, or has security holes in the operating system. Different device types have different effects on this. When used improperly, baby monitors can spy on and frighten home occupants. In contrast, a smart washing machine can be turned off mid-cycle as a practical joke. Downright unpleasant situations, like a blackout or heating failure, can happen in a fully functional smart home.
3. A smart device taken over can be infected with malicious software and used to launch cyberattacks against both devices on the wider Web and computers connected to the home network. Evidence shows that infected security cameras have launched powerful DDoS attacks. Owners of infected devices run the risk of having their internet connections cut off and being added to various blacklists.
4. The data sent by the device can be located and made public if the vendor’s level of security is insufficient. Sometimes, surveillance and peephole camera footage is kept in inadequately secured cloud environments and is available for public viewing.
Luckily for you, none of these horrors has to befall you — the risks can be significantly lessened.
What If You Don’t Need Your Home To Be Smart?
It’s not uncommon for a smart home to be underutilized. In the IoT, 50% of devices never see a network connection, according to statistics from appliance vendors. They are used by the owners in a conventional, non-smart manner, without mobile app management or any other amenities unique to the twenty-first century.
But security risks can still exist with even a non-configured device like that. It’s likely that it occasionally tries to connect to nearby Bluetooth-enabled devices or exposes a publicly accessible, unencrypted Wi-Fi access point. Someone might take over in that situation, like one of your neighbours.
Therefore, reading through the user manual, opening the settings, and disabling Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity are the bare minimum steps you need to take to “dumb down” your smart home appliances.
Some gadgets prevent you from doing this or that restart Wi-Fi after a power outage. This can be resolved with a workaround that involves temporarily changing your home Wi-Fi password, connecting the problematic device, and then changing the password again.
Even though the device will continue to attempt to connect using the wrong password, it will be impossible to hack it using malicious default settings.
Your smart home needs some level of security, whether it is centrally controlled or consists of disparate, unconnected devices.
1. Make Sure Your Wi-Fi Router Is Secured.
Keep in mind that the smart home system includes your router as well. We’ve written several comprehensive guides on how to set up a router correctly and secure a home Wi-Fi network. We’d like to add that the set-and-forget strategy doesn’t work here because it’s frequently discovered that home router firmware contains flaws exploited for attacking home networks.
Regularly checking for firmware updates is necessary. Reliable routers allow firmware updates directly from the control panel of the web interface. If that isn’t the case for you, go to the vendor’s website or contact your internet service provider to get a newer firmware version, then follow the installation instructions to install it.
Verify that the router’s settings are set to prevent device management from networks other than the one at home before wrapping up this router adventure. Although ISP staff members may occasionally need it for troubleshooting, it is frequently left on when unnecessary, increasing cybersecurity risks.
Using a specialized app is the most practical way to accomplish this. When available, Kaspersky Premium can show a list of all network-connected devices along with information about their vendors and protection status.
It’s crucial to keep track of your devices and remove any unnecessary ones, such as a refrigerator that doesn’t require Wi-Fi or a neighbour connected to free Wi-Fi.
3. Consider Vendor Reputation When Purchasing A Gadget.
Every vendor has weaknesses and flaws, but some quickly address these issues and release updates, while others will continue to downplay the issue for as long as possible.
A Kaspersky survey revealed that 34% of users think having a secure smart home is as simple as choosing a reputable vendor. While that undoubtedly reduces the risks, additional measures are still needed to stay safe.
What If Your Smart Home Is Built On Wi-Fi?
Do you own several smart devices that aren’t interconnected or that you’ve connected together using Apple HomeKit or Amazon Alexa? In that case, each device independently uses Wi-Fi to connect to the internet.
From a security perspective, this situation is the most challenging because each device’s passwords, firmware, and vulnerabilities must be tracked separately.
Unfortunately, setup instructions differ significantly depending on the device type and vendor, so we must stick to general advice.
1. Set Up A Guest Wi-Fi Network.
This is referred to as “network segmentation” by experts. Ideally, your home network should be divided into three sections: personal computers, visitors’ devices, and smart home appliances. Although many routers can’t perform such miracles, you should at least have two segments: one for guests and one for home devices.
This will stop visitors from playing around and changing your camera and robot vacuum settings. It should go without saying that the segments need unique Wi-Fi passwords to be protected, and the guest segment needs stricter security parameters like client isolation, bandwidth restrictions, and so on.
IoT device segmentation minimizes risks related to them. A home computer could not be attacked by a hacker using an IP camera that had been taken over. Infected home computers cannot access video cameras; the opposite is true.
To implement this advice, access the web-based management interface for the router and check the Wi-Fi settings. Check the other sections of the router settings to ensure that the cables connecting some of your appliances are in the appropriate network segments.
2. Set Strong Passwords.
Open each device’s settings. A web interface and an official mobile app can accomplish this. By following the instructions in the user manual, create a lengthy password for each device. The same password cannot be used across all devices! Consider using a password manager to keep everything organized.
By the way, one comes with Kaspersky Premium and can also be downloaded separately.
3. Update The Firmware.
Do this for each of your devices that support firmware updates via an app or web interface, and repeat regularly.
4. Check The Online Service Settings.
The same device might work in various modes, sending various amounts of data online. For instance, a robot vacuum cleaner may or may not be permitted to upload a thorough cleanup pattern to the server, which would entail a map of your house.
When a visitor approaches your door, a video peephole may be permitted to save each image or video to the server, or it may only be permitted to display it when you press the button. Disable unused features to avoid filling the vendor’s cloud storage with unnecessary data.
Additionally, it’s best to avoid sending the server any data that can be protected from sharing without affecting the device’s functionality.
5. Follow Updates On The Vendors Of Devices You Use.
IoT device owners occasionally need to take action when serious vulnerabilities or other problems are discovered with their devices. These actions might include updating the firmware, turning on or off a feature, changing the password, deleting an outdated cloud backup, etc.
Conscious vendors typically have a section of their website dedicated to security advice and newsletters. Still, these are frequently written in technical jargon and include information on various devices irrelevant to you.
It is, therefore, advisable to periodically check for updates regarding your devices and, if necessary, visit the official website.
What If Your Smart Home Is Centrally Managed?
The owner’s job is made a little bit easier if your smart home has a centralized system with most of the devices controlled by a hub.
The smart home controller is primarily where all of the actions, like choosing a secure password and regularly updating the firmware, must be completed. Ideally, turn on two-factor authentication for the controller. We also advise limiting the controller’s ability to access the internet, for instance, by disabling data sharing with all computers other than vendor servers and items connected to the controller’s home network.
You can adjust this in the home router settings. Some controllers can function even when there is no internet connection. Disconnecting the hub from the internet is a strong security measure, even if you don’t need to be able to manage your smart home remotely.
Although the threat of sophisticated, multi-stage attacks won’t go away due to this, at least the most straightforward ones will be stopped.