Technology in the 21st century has evolved to include many things never imagined only a decade ago. Everything from Internet connected thermostats, to remotely accessible home security systems, and even wireless refrigerators are now within the reach of most consumers around the world. Technology can be an enabling factor; helping us get more done, faster, with less human interaction, which frees us up to spend more time with our families or working on other things.
However, as with most innovations, security is often an afterthought. As inventors and engineers are rushing to ensure their products are first to market, they often overlook certain aspects of their product which may end up putting their customers at risk in the future.
Internet of Things (IoT) devices, as most Internet connected home electronics are known, often pose a significant threat to the security of the customer’s home network for several reasons:
- These devices are connected to the Internet, often with little or no protection.
- Most of these devices are accessible from the Internet 24x7x365.
- Security and configuration is left up to the customer, who may not be technically savvy.
- When connected to the home network, the devices may be able to access other devices on the customer’s home network, such as their computers and other IoT devices.
- Devices are often shipped from the factory with outdated and vulnerable software and updating this software is left up to the customer.
Customers should be aware of these risks when purchasing their IoT devices and factor security into their purchasing decision when deciding which product to choose among the many competing brands that are on the store shelf.
Here are a few things you should ask yourself when making your selections:
Is the Company Well Known?
You’ve probably heard the saying “you get what you pay for”. In most cases this is true, and it’s true for a reason. Aside from the additional cost of sales, marketing, and other expenses, larger companies also spend more money on research, development, and security. Although no company can guarantee security, a larger and better established company will usually also have more experienced engineers and developers. Oftentimes these companies will put more time and effort into their development efforts to preserve their reputation. Larger companies also have more robust support teams that will be able to answer your questions and provide assistance in case your device does have security issues that need to be addressed.
Does the Device Support Automatic Updates?
With all of the things that we are expected to remember, updating our Internet connected toaster probably falls to the bottom of the list. Chances are most people do not know how to update the software in their IoT devices. For those that do, it’s usually something that gets put off or forgotten altogether. Automatic updates are meant to detach the customer from the software maintenance process by automatically updating the devices software for them. This is a great feature which will ensure that your IoT device is always running on the latest and greatest version of software put out by the company.
Does the Device Have Unnecessary Features?
Oftentimes companies will pack as many features into their products as they can in order to outdo their competitors. These additional features can be useful, however they can also pose unnecessary risk in the future if the device is ever accessed by a hacker. When purchasing your IoT device, always ask yourself “do I really need this feature and how can it be used against me”? Although this may seem like a paranoid way of thinking, it puts you in a more security conscious state of mind. Do you really need a camera on your Internet connect TV which can watch and record you if it were to be accessed by a hacker? Do you really need your Internet connected toaster to be voice activated, which might lead to an invasion of privacy if it were ever hacked?
Once you’ve purchased the right device and set it up at home, your work isn’t over. It’s important to make sure that the IoT devices you add to your home network are securely configured so that the bad guys can’t access them.
Here are some steps you should take to maximize the security of your IoT devices:
Use a Strong Password for Accessing Your IoT Devices
Since most IoT devices are accessible from the Internet, it’s important to set a password that is not easily guessable and cannot be attacked by hackers. For more information about choosing a good password, check out the following website: http://www.pcdatasecurity.com/choosing-a-good-password-and-keeping-it-safe/
Keep Your IoT Devices Up-To-Date With Software Patches
If “Automatic Updates” are available for your device, make sure the option is enabled in the settings. If this feature is not available for your device, then set a reminder for yourself to check with the device vendor for updates on a regular basis. Sometimes the company will allow you to sign up for reminders on their website, which makes it easier to keep track of upcoming updates for your device.
Make Sure the IoT Device Has Not Made Changes to Your Home Network Without Your Knowledge
Sometimes IoT devices have a way of making changes to settings in your Modem or Router without your permission. The Router and Modem are the components of your network which act as a gate between your home network and the Internet. A service called “Universal Plug and Play (UPnP)” is sometime enabled on your Router or Modem which allows your devices to open ports on your behalf. You should check whether any unauthorized ports are opened on your Modem and Router to the Internet by performing an Internet Scan. Free online tools are available, such as Shields Up (https://www.grc.com/shieldsup) which will help you keep tabs on these open ports.
Put Your IoT Devices on a “Guest Network”.
More and more Router manufacturers nowadays are including a “Guest Network” feature in their products. This feature allows your home Router to create 2 Wireless networks which are separated from one another. One network is for your family (including computers that store your important files), and the other network provides your guests with access to the Internet, but prevents them from accessing your family’s network. If your Router has this feature, you should consider putting your IoT devices on the Guest Network. If your IoT device falls victim to a hacker on the Internet, the hacker will be restricted to the Guest Network and not allowed to access your personal data.
Technology can be a fun and exciting part of our lives, especially when it allows us to do more with less. The tips we discussed will allow you to enjoy your new IoT device, while using it in a secure manner. For more information on Computer Security, please visit http://www.pcdatasecurity.com/