How to Stop Your Home From Being Hacked

Is the Internet of Things (IoT) putting your home at risk? Read on to see how you can protect your home from criminals that can’t be kept out with a lock and key.

Security for the Internet of Things

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How to Stop Your Home From Being Hacked

Technology in the home can be a wonderful thing, but what if the Internet of Things (IoT) puts your home at risk? In our modern homes, did you know that everything from refrigerators to baby monitors to lightbulbs to TVs can be connected to the IoT and also be hacked? (marketwatch.com)

The number of ‘smart homes’ in the US is expected to reach 73 million by 2012, which will comprise 50% of all households. By the end of 2016, more than 21 million homes were already connected, which is great. But it creates new security concerns and anxieties for homeowners.

Keep reading to learn how to safeguard your home from criminals that can’t be stopped by lock and key.

How the Internet of Things Has Caused Serious Security Problems

  • 2000-2008: Vice President Cheney’s Wi-Fi feature on his pacemaker was disabled for security reasons while he was in office. It was possible that hackers could get into the pacemaker’s ‘brain’ and potentially wreak havoc.
  • 2014: Hackers were able to remotely disable the transmission and brakes of a Jeep Grand Cherokee. More than one million vehicles had to be recalled to install a patch to prevent further hacker breaches.
  • 2015: A smart fridge made by Samsung was determined to be vulnerable to exposing a user’s Gmail account. The refrigerator synced with the user’s Google calendar to display it on screen.
  • 2016: 80 popular websites were breached in a massive Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack. Affected websites included Twitter, Netflix, Reddit, Spotify, Etsy and Github. Also, unprotected IoT devices, such as Internet-ready cameras, were used to get around Internet security measures – 70% of IoT devices today lack security safeguards that make them vulnerable to hackers.

IoT Devices Have Major Security Problems

  • Several potential spots for data leaks: The device, various connected devices, data centers and communication channels are possible access points for hackers. A security breach in one area can allow for a cyberattack on multiple connected devices.
  • Hard to build in robust encryption features: The devices’ small size, low power and low computing capacity only allow for rudimentary security encryptions, at best. For true security, the device, its communication channel and server must be properly encrypted.
  • Lack of standards for quality and access protocol: Sophisticated electronic devices can be easily linked with inexpensive, disposable ones. It is impractical and not cost effective to put strong, expensive processors in every device.
  • Security vs efficiency: It is important for manufacturers to balance the cost of the product with electronic device security. Unfortunately, with many smart devices, creating strong security measures is not cost effective at this time.

Some Major Problems In Store for IoT Users

  • Invasion of privacy: Hacked door locks and security systems can be used to monitor the activity in your home remotely.
  • Insecure enterprise and network security: Personal IoT devices can be easy back door access points for major business networks.
  • IoT devices on your home network can offer easy access to your private and personal information.

How to Protect Your Home Until Better Security Is Available

  • Create segmented networks: Establish separate networks for all IoT devices, PC and mobile, and for guests. In this way, less secure IoT devices will not have access to your work or personal data.
  • Make robust passwords for your devices and router: Remember, pre-set router passwords are easy to hack. A strong password for your router should be 20 characters and include letters, numbers and symbols.
  • Disable your wireless features and network when not in use.
  • Keep the firmware on your router up to date: Outdated firmware will make your network more vulnerable to cyberattacks. Experts recommend checking for firmware updates every three months.

More Recommendations to Keep You and Your Home Secure

Use Multifactor Authentication

Experts recommend adding an authentication factor beyond the password for your devices and systems inside and outside the home. The additional level of authentication could be a security key or a code that is received by a cell phone call, or a text to keep suspicious parties out of smart devices and the apps that control them.

If a hacker is able to steal your username and password, they would not be as likely to access email and other personal information if you use two factor authentication.

Perform Security Updates on New Devices

Most device users have been there: Your phone asks you to perform a software update but you tell it to do it later. Doing this can make your device much more vulnerable to malware that can steal your personal information.

Note that most smart devices in the home do not automatically update, so each month, users should open the app on their smart lightbulbs or smart refrigerator and see if there are firmware updates. Even when you purchase a smart device straight from the store, you should check for updates that are sent out from the time it was manufactured and when it was bought.

Install Good Malware Protection

Consumers should always have good malware protection on their phones, computers and other smart devices. These apps are vital for your and your home’s protection because they have application firewalls built in that let you choose which apps you will run on your PC or phone. If an app comes up that you have not seen before, the program will tell you and prevent suspicious software from being used on your smart device.

Good antivirus programs only usually protect you from 30% to 50% of the viruses out there, but it is still helpful to have them on your smart devices.

Never Use Public Wi-Fi

It is easy for hackers to access your smart devices on public Wi-Fi. Be sure you shut off the ‘automatically connect’ setting on your phone and beware of shared connections, such as in coffee shops or airports.

Safer alternatives for wireless connectivity are wireless hot spots. They can be created on most cell phones or devices that are bought for mobile Internet specifically, such as Verizon Jetpack. Consumers also may want to use a VPN (Virtual Private Network) service, but they should be sure to vet the one they have selected for security.

Never Keep Devices on the Same Network as Your Main PC

It is important to segregate your Internet connections to lower the risk of hacking across multiple devices. You can buy a separate Internet connection. Or, you may split an existing Internet connection with a virtual local area network or VLAN. This will segment your main network and performs the compartmentalization of traffic so if a single device is hacked, it cannot be used to hack into others. Also, virtual LANs can be established via your Internet connection online.

How to Prevent Your Security Cameras from Being Hacked

Many families like to use smart security cameras in and around the home to feel safer. But these cameras are susceptible to being hacked. Some ways to improve security include: (cnet.com)

  • Secure your home wireless network with WPA2.
  • When it is available, enable encryption in the administrative tools of the camera.
  • Protect the administrative software with a password and username that is hard to guess. Do so even if it is on a secured network.
  • Update the firmware on the camera as much as you can.

Security experts also recommend putting your security cameras on their own network. This might mean that you do not have the perfect smart home, but it prevents what is known as ‘land and expand.’ This is where the hacker acquires access to one device and uses it to take over other connected devices on the network.

Avoid a Smart Hub Apocalypse

The smart hub in your home is the brain of the smart home. It is usually a little box and may have a touchscreen. With special protocols, the smart hub ‘talks’ to every smart device in your house. And the devices talk back to it, and provide information or answer various commands.

If the smart hub lacks a screen, there is a mobile app or Web-based program that you use to program each smart appliance. The smart hub is necessary to connect and sync all of the smart devices in the home and to command each one. That is a great convenience for the user, but it means hackers just need to access the smart hub to control the home.

The key to hacking a smart hub is to know the serial number. You might think it sounds unlikely for hackers to know your serial number, but many home owners like to publish reviews of their devices on Youtube and show everything needed to hack into the hubs, including the serial number.

To avoid your smart hub from being hacked, never share your serial number. It is the master key to your smart home. Also, never buy smart appliances second hand. It is possible the firmware may have been changed by the last owner and give a hacker full control of your home. (kaspersky.com)

We hope the above information and tips will keep you and your personal data safe, whether it is in your smart home, at work or at play.

References

About Bryan Dornan

Bryan Dornan is a Financial Journalist and currently serves as Chief Editor of RefiGuide.org. Bryan has worked in the mortgage industry for over 20 years and has a wealth of experience in providing mortgage clients with the highest level of service in the industry. Bryan's continual focus is to promote affordable home-ownership to consumers like you across the United States. He also writes for RealtyTimes, Patch, Medium and other national publications. Find him on Twitter and Muckrack.