Towards the end of 2016, a series of massive DDoS attacks took out some of the internet’s biggest websites, including PayPal, CNN, Reddit, Github, Netflix, Twitter, and many others. The attack billed as one of the biggest in the history of the internet, was carried out through botnets believed to have originated from IoT devices.
The mere fact that hackers can leverage your networked CCTV cameras, TVs, refrigerators, DVRs, thermostats, and other connected devices to carry out such attacks is quite scary. Plus, with more people looking to take advantage of the Internet of Things, or IoT, to make their homes smart, things are only bound to get worse. Unless, of course, IoT adopters and smart homeowners do something about it.
There are simple things you can do to ensure hackers and digital intruders have a hard time getting into your home. Here are some of them.
1. Use Strong Passwords
It’s the oldest rule in the book. Protecting your home network with a strong password is normally enough to keep most hackers at bay, though some will always try to break in. Unfortunately, many of us seem to be quite comfortable with devices that have default passwords, making it easy for hackers to gain access.
Whenever you add a new device to the network, it is always good practice to update your network’s password and the default password on the device itself. If you don’t have the time or patience to handle multiple passwords, you can use password managers such as Zoho Vault and Dashlane 4 to help manage your passwords on websites, the home network, and different devices.
2. Regularly Update Your Firmware
Many smart devices usually come with a firmware update feature, but only a few of them will prompt you to check for updates automatically. For this reason, users must physically navigate to the app that came with your smart light bulbs, refrigerator, thermostat, or other smart gadgets and check for updates.
These updates are usually rolled out by device manufacturers to help fix vulnerabilities that would act as gateways to your home network. For example, a critical Apple update issued towards the end of 2016 helped prevent computers and iPhones from being used as spying devices by hackers.
3. Disconnect Devices When Not in Use
Why switch off the router at night when you’ll still have to power it back up in the morning? That’s the question many of us often ask when leaving the router on at night. But powering down routers and other connected devices can significantly help secure your home network. Make a habit of disconnecting your wireless printer, smartphone, tablet, laptop, and other devices from the internet when not in use. By doing so, you will reduce the number of breach points for hackers and make it harder for them to intrude.
4. Research Before Adding a Smart Device to Your Home Network
Tons of unconventional devices can be added to your home network nowadays, thanks to advances in IoT technology. And since it's as easy as ever to add these devices, you should always get more information about them before hooking them up.
Stick with gadgets produced by companies that have been around. Name brands are more likely to roll out patches and updates than companies that are just getting into it. You should also ensure the gadget comes with decent security features to help protect you from the get go.
You can always get more information about specific smart devices from the manufacturers’ websites or one of the many review websites offering information.
At the end of the day, exercising caution is the best protection against digital intruders who seem to get better with each attack. Before adding a new device to your smart home network, always ask yourself if it’s really necessary. After all, just because you can get it and hook it up to the internet doesn’t necessarily mean you should.