Smart people use smart devices, right? Nearly every piece of technology and equipment you have in your home now has or can have a digital brain of its own. Smart ovens, refrigerators, trash cans, and washing machines are super convenient, not to mention baby monitors, door locks, cameras, and other critical security devices.
And smart home tech has other benefits, too.
The Internet of Things can help you optimize your heating and cooling systems. With smart plugs and showers, you can improve efficiency by controlling your electricity and water usage. Not only does this save you money, but it also makes the environment a bit greener.
Why Should You Be Concerned Then?
According to tech experts and real-life scenarios, smart homes pose a certain security risk to you, your family, and your assets. You can already hear it on the evening news – while pretty easy to hack, connected devices are inviting cybercriminals into your home.
The Internet of Things is a complex system.
Such systems are difficult to secure, but that’s not all. By 2021, there will be 73 million smart homes in the US. Smart devices are now being mass-produced, which means that everyone can buy a baby monitor similar to yours and learn how to abuse the weak points.
More than 30,000 smart homes are vulnerable to hacking, as of August 2018 Avast report.
What Makes Smart Homes Hackable?
We’ve previously said that smart devices have digital brains of their own, which is not entirely true. In the context of the IoT, a digital hive mind would be a more accurate description. Every connected device is plugged into a hive mind and is centrally controlled.
That’s what smart home hubs and dashboards are for.
Using your smart bulb as a point of entry, hackers can get their hands on your credit card passwords or spy on your family via your smart TV, security camera, or baby monitor. That’s distressing news, to say the least.
All Smart Devices Can Be Compromised
Every connected device is a potential security risk, research confirms.
Most smart home systems rely on voice activation, which makes them vulnerable to manipulation with ultrasound commands. Sensory inputs are just as breachable, even offline. Other devices, such as digital door locks, provide easy access to digital burglars.
By exploiting poorly configured MQTT servers, which serve to interconnect and control smart home devices via smart home hubs, hackers can see when you’re away from home and whether your door is locked or not, as well as manipulate your voice assistants.
Theoretically speaking, if cybercriminals can hack into only one device that’s part of your smart home system, they can easily gain access to all of them. That includes your computer, where all your sensitive data is stored, as well as your surveillance tech.
Keeping Your Smart Home Safe from Risk
Before you ask, no, we don’t suggest that you should stop using your smart home devices altogether. With some caution, you can still enjoy the convenience and efficiency they have to offer. And the only thing you need to do is treat your smart home system as a computer.
- Don’t opt for the cheapest devices, as they are easy targets for hackers.
- Configure each device individually by customizing their security settings.
- Set up strong passwords and change them at least every two months.
- Update your devices regularly, as soon as there’s a new patch available.
- If there are devices that you’re not using every day, keep them unplugged.
- If you’re using a smartphone app as a dashboard, install a mobile VPN.
The worst you can do is connect a new device and start using it as-is, without any customization or maintenance. You wouldn’t do that with your computer, right? No, you would set up a new password and download a reliable firewall and antivirus software first.
A virtual private network (VPN) is another brilliant solution against hacking.
It masks your IP address so that no one would be able to track your online activity, gain access to your system, steal your data, and locate where you are. Use it to encrypt your computer data and get a mobile VPN version to protect your smart home apps.
Smart home tech is designed for smart tech users, so use it accordingly.
When it comes to cybersecurity, there are two general rules of thumb for you to follow – stay aware of the risks is the first, and practice basic security is the second. Hacking smart homes may be easy, but so is keeping criminals on the other side of your digital fence.