Securing your smart home and IoT devices

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When it comes to your family’s safety and protecting them from intruders, you should also guard your home network from criminals; cyber criminals that is. Like most people, you likely have some type of tech gadget that connects to your Internet. From mobile devices to self-programming lamps to voice-activated TVs to home security camera systems and on and on, we’re all connected in some way or another. The latest, greatest and best smart home technologies are all vulnerable. The more Internet connected devices that are added to your home network, the greater the risk is of being hacked by a cyber criminal. It’s time to ramp up your smart home’s IQ.

The Internet of Things (IoT) are devices or appliances that connect to the Internet via your home network. Savvy cyber criminals can use your Wi-Fi router as the front door or gateway in to your smart home. The way in which you lock the entryways in to your home should be the same way in which you should lock your Wi-Fi router.

Smart home networks are advancing by the day. This luxury comes with perks and pitfalls. As an example, eventually your smart home will learn your weekly schedule and turn on and off certain devices connected to them. Cyber criminals will learn them too.

Cyber criminals can also listen to your conversations if you’re using a voice assistant, such as Amazon Alexa or Google Home. Imagine giving your credit card information over the phone to order a meal, product or service and having a hacker tapped into your assistant and taking down your credit card information. What then?

To ramp up your smart home’s IQ, here are ways to do it.

Setup a VLAN router to create an added layer of security to your Wi-Fi. It segregates traffic on your router and enhances performance for the devices connected to it. Connecting all IoT devices to a VLAN will isolate the impact of a hacked device. Likewise, a malware infected computer cannot spread to any other devices or computers. Have your guests use the VLAN as well.

Setup two-step (2FA) or multi-factor authentication (MFA) to add another layer of security to your devices; all of them.

Regularly update your router firmware, otherwise you could miss important new security features. Check the manufacturer’s website for the latest version.

Use a reputable antivirus software. Make sure to install only the software the experts trust. These are top 13 tools antivirus reviewed by CSO. As an aside, if you are using a good antivirus software, firewall software often comes built in.

Turn on hardware and software firewalls. The software firewall is used to protect your computer, and the hardware firewall protects your router. Most routers contain a built-in firewall, but you may need to activate it.

Locate your Wi-Fi router in the center of your home. The further away the signal range, the harder it will be for nearby hackers to access your network. If you live in a smaller space, 5 GHz offers more protection since it does not penetrate solid objects very well.

You may want to disable remote access on your router. By disabling remote access, it prevents hackers from intercepting login credentials you send through the air giving them access to your admin panel if they were somehow able to break in wirelessly.

Change your Service Set Identifier (SSID) on your router. If a hacker doesn’t know what type of router you have, they cannot exploit known vulnerabilities. Be sure the network name does not disclose information that could put you at risk for identity theft.

Change the default credentials on your router vs using the weak ones that comes with it. Use a password with 16 or more characters, or use a password manager. Hackers can look for default credentials, if they know the type of router you have, by going to websites like RouterPasswords.

Disable Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) and Universal Plug and Play (UPNP) on your router. With a single command, an attacker can scan a local area for networks that support WPS and quickly gain access, within 15 seconds, thereby giving them access to your network. Also, if an unauthorized person has access to your router device, they can simply press the WPS button on the router and then press the WPS button on the device it is connected and gain access to your network. The UPNP allows devices on the network to discover newly-connected devices thereby allowing anyone, including unauthorized users, to find them. This could present issues of their own.

In conclusion

By ramping up your smart home’s IQ, you’ve helped to securely setup your home network. While these techniques may prevent some attacks, no one is completely 100% immune. As long as you are connected online, you will always be a target for cyber criminals, especially with the likes of phishing emails, social engineering, fraud, etc. Always remember, your first line of defense is YOU.



OrlanTech is a managed service provider (MSP) that was founded in 1995 and is now the market leader in delivering technology-as-a-service to small and medium size businesses (SMB) in the central Florida area.

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