How Secure is Your Smart Home?
Cruising the aisles of your favorite home improvement store, you spot it. Its tall, curvy profile is unmistakable, the glamorous shine of its polished chrome beckons you. The enormous touchscreen asks you if you’d like to order groceries — wait a second…
If you’ve been paying any attention at all, you know that smart home devices are popping up everywhere. From smart refrigerators like the Samsung Family Hub line to connected electric toothbrushes, you can get just about anything you want in a version that’ll report back to your smartphone or network. Heck, there’s even a connected water bottle!
Smart Home Devices and the Internet of Things
All those items at home that connect to your smartphone, hub computers or voice assistant are prime examples of the Internet of Things. Everything connected to the Internet that’s not a desktop, laptop, tablet or smartphone is part of this wireless network.
Your swanky SmartTV, bluetooth-enabled dishwasher, self-closing garage door and even your security system, they’re all things that are part of the Internet of Things. It’s important to make this differentiation because unlike the traditional Internet, the Internet of Things has a big emerging problem. Security has become a bit of an issue, with smart home devices used by hackers as backdoors into home and business networks.
Older Internet of Things products are the most vulnerable, since it was uncommon for security to be considered in their design. After all, who’s going to hack a coffee maker? It’s not really the coffee pot that’s the end goal, as it turns out, it’s access to a network that can be used against another entity, often without the owner’s knowledge. You could be happily percolating a pot of beans while your coffee pot is participating in a denial of service attack against AT&T and never be the wiser. It’s nefarious.
Is a Smart Home Worth the Risk?
Just because your smart home may be at risk right now doesn’t mean it’s not worth having. That would be just like saying your car is at risk of being hit in a parking lot, so you should never go to the market or maybe even never own a car. Smart home technology can improve and enrich lives when applied strategically, but that’s kind of the crux of the issue here.
When you’re looking at smart home devices, there are a few things you should consider:
What is the brand’s commitment to security? If your product is designed to automatically accept new software when it’s available and allows you to change the password at your leisure, these are good signs that the manufacturer is trying to keep their products secure. Since these updates will be one of your primary defenses, they should be given a high level of consideration during a purchase.
Is this a product that should be connected? Sometimes, brands connect items that maybe don’t need to be connected, like that smart toothbrush, or maybe you don’t need them connected, like the smart coffee pot. It’s ok to not buy a connected item when you have a smart home. In fact, if you strategically purchase bluetooth-connected items, you’ll minimize your security risk.
Can I secure this device? This may sound silly, but you should take security of these items very seriously. If you don’t feel that you’re capable of securing your new connected products, then arrange for a tech-savvy person to configure your Internet of Things network before you even turn that new buy on.
Can I afford a separate network for my Internet of Things devices? Known as network segmentation, having a separate, dedicated network for your devices will shield your computers and other more traditional hardware from any risk that your smart home could create. This may not be in your budget or your technical skill though. However, it’s also a smart idea to have a secondary network, anyway, so you can provide visitors with a password to your guest network instead of your main network. (Check out our glossary of terms and tips to secure your home network)
The Bottom Line
Having a smart home means exposing yourself to a bit of risk from your Internet of Things devices, but there are plenty of things you can do to protect yourself. If you don’t feel like you’re ready to set up the right kind of security by yourself, contact a tech pro. Geek Squad is a great place to start.