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Whether you own a house or rent an apartment, building a smart home is easier than it has ever been. Homeowners and renters can purchase kits that integrate specific smart items or they can select smart home products, such as light bulbs, crockpots, coffee makers, thermostats, vacuums, ovens, doorbells, mailboxes, window shades, and security cameras. After downloading the appropriate apps, anyone can connect everything together through a Wi-Fi network.1, 2
Smart digital assistants (SDAs) are the handy commanders of the smart home. Analysts estimated, by the end of 2018, SDAs would be active in almost one-half of American homes.3
These devices won’t take down the holiday decorations, but they will instruct the dishwasher to wash the dishes, tell the sound system what you want to hear, and inform the smart feeder it’s time for Fido’s supper. If you’re a road warrior, you can connect your automobile. If you work long hours, you can connect your office, too.4
Here’s the thing.
While smart homes offer tremendous convenience – and can be a lot of fun – they also have the potential to make Americans vulnerable to cybercrime. According to research published by ScienceDirect, security experts anticipate smart homes will become targets for cybercriminals because they are easy to infiltrate.5 For example, hackers could:
- Access your smart thermostat and determine when you’re on vacation6
- Retrieve information (passwords and financial or personal data) shared through a digital assistant6
- Unlock your smart door with no sign of forced entry7
- Hijack security cameras to spy on your home7
Just about everything in a smart home can be hacked, and criminals try all the time. Norton reported, “At times of peak activity, the average IoT [Internet of Things] device was attacked once every two minutes, according to the 2017 Internet Security Threat Report, published by Symantec.”6
Securing your smart home
When building a smart home, it’s critical to look beyond cutting-edge gadgetry and give serious thought to system security. Here are six tips for securing your smart home:
Build a strong foundation. Your router is the front door to your smart home and it should be solid and equipped with strong locks – it is your smart home’s foundational item. It connects all of your devices to the Internet. When you move money from one account to another using a home computer or smartphone, the data flows through your router. When you stream shows and movies, this data also flows through your router. You can’t afford to ignore it.6 The first thing to do is make sure your router is encrypting data. Norton suggests selecting Wi-Fi Protected Access 2 (WPA2) to protect your data. Choose a router that supports WPA2, and then take a few extra minutes to set it up.6
Consumer Reports suggested several steps that can help keep data private. First, ensure your router software is up-to-date. Second, choose strong passwords. Typically, routers will have two passwords, one to control the router’s settings and a second one to provide access to smart devices. Third, turn off any router features you don’t use.4
Set your network to private. Smart devices have default settings. Some devices default to optimize privacy and security, others do not. Instead of assuming manufacturers have your best interests in mind, review the privacy settings for devices as you connect them.6
Choose 2FA. If the app for your smart device offers two-factor authentication (2FA), use it. In order to make changes, you will have to log in and then confirm your log in by entering a code that’s sent via text or email. If you get a code and didn’t try to log in, you know someone is trying to access your system.6
Give guests a network of their own. If you have a smart home, Norton suggests setting up a separate network for visitors. You cannot be certain whether someone else’s devices are secure. By having guests log on to a separate network, you protect your home and connected devices.6
Upgrade your devices. You probably won’t be passing smart devices from one generation of the family to the next. In fact, you shouldn’t.6
Prepare for a power outage. Many smart devices work when the power goes out. Make sure you know which of yours will and which won’t. For example, did your smart thermostat or smart door lock come with regular or rechargeable batteries or some other type of backup?8
It’s particularly important to understand how your home security system will respond. Systems that rely on Voice-over-Internet-Protocol (VoIP) and the Internet must have online connections or they don’t work. Your security cameras may also have issues during power outages, although a battery bank backup could solve the problem, according to MakeUseOf.com.8
Don’t let the excitement of building a smart home cause you to lose sight of the importance of home security. When your household devices communicate with one another, keeping your data safe presents a whole new set of challenges.
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5 https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1877050915030318?via%3Dihub (or go to https://s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/peakcontent/Peak+Documents/Feb_2019_ScienceDirect-Cyber_Security_Challenges_within_the_Connected_Home_Ecosystem_Futures-Footnote_5.pdf)