How to Protect Your Smarthome from Attack

Smart home security and protection symbol.
Aleksandra Sova / Shutterstock

Every new device you introduce into your smartphone is another device that can be attacked. You can secure your smartphone by simple steps like locking your router and taking care of your server's gadgets.

Start with your router

Modern wireless Wi-Fi router up close
Proxima Studio / Shutterstock

Most smarthome devices require Internet access to function properly. Although not all devices connect directly to the Internet (such as z-wave bulbs), those that do not typically connect to a hub or other device to access the Internet. So, in many ways, the most important point of vulnerability is your router.

And secure your router should be your first step. You must change your default administrator password used to access the router. Update the firmware of the router if it is obsolete and enable encryption. Always use a complex password specific to your Wi-Fi router. With a standard (non-meshed) router, you can accomplish all of this from the router's web interface. All you need is find the IP address of your router. Mesh routers, on the other hand, do not have a web interface. You will make the changes from an application.

If the manufacturer of your router no longer offers new firmware, you should consider replacing it. Although we usually say that most people do not need a Mesh router for their home, smarthomes benefit. You get better coverage for all your Wi-Fi devices and most Mesh routers automatically update the firmware and offer additional protection services in the form of subscription.

RELATED: Secure your wireless router: 8 things you can do now

Use unique passwords for each device

Dashlane interface, showing the health of the password.
Password managers are not just for websites; they also have other useful features. Dashlane

Many smarthome devices require a password during setup. This usually involves downloading an application and creating a user account. In some cases, like Z-wave bulbs, you will create a single account for a hub to use with multiple devices.

Each device for which you create an account must have a unique and complicated password. If you reuse passwords for services and devices on multiple devices, you run the risk that a single compromised unit will result in additional points of vulnerability in your home.

If you are not already doing this, consider using a password manager. Services like Last passage or Dashlane can help you create and keep track of long, complicated passwords. You may think that password managers only serve to record website credentials, but you can register any type of password. In addition, you can store secure notes, files, bookmarks, etc. in a password manager.

RELATED: Why use a password manager and how to do it

Enable two-factor authentication when available

An open padlock with the key inserted.
dnd_project / Shutterstock

Two-factor authentication is an extra layer of security beyond the simple password. With two-factor authentication, after providing your password, you provide additional proof of identity. This is usually in the form of a code, generated randomly by a phone application or sent via SMS or phone call.

Unfortunately, the offer of two-factor authentication is not very common in "smarthome" devices, but it is starting to change. Nest and Wyze both now offer two-factor authentication. Security cameras are the most likely devices to have two-factor authentication, and you must use them with them. As a couple discovered itInstead of trying to break into your router, an attacker may find it easier to use stolen credentials to connect to the accounts associated with your smarthome devices. Two-step authentication can help prevent this.

Check the applications associated with your smart devices, if possible, enable them. We recommend pairing two-factor authentication with an authentication application, such as Google Authenticator for iOS and Android.

RELATED: What is two-factor authentication and why do I need it?

Update the firmware on all your devices regularly

Just like your router, you need to regularly update the firmware of all your smarthome devices. firmware is essentially the software built into your hardware: it determines its characteristics and capabilities. Manufacturers regularly find and fix problems, and often add new features along the way.

In general, you can update most Smarthome devices through an application. This includes Z-wave and ZigBee gadgets that you connect to a smart hub. You will check the smart hub app for these updates.

If the manufacturer no longer supports a smarthome device that you have installed, replace it as soon as possible. If in doubt, check the manufacturer's website.

RELATED: What is a firmware or microcode and how can I update my hardware?

Buy only from reputable and well-known companies

An Amazonian search result showing more than 20 smart plugs.
So many smart plugs.

If you're looking for smart cards on Amazon, you'll find dozens of options from dozens of manufacturers. Some of which you may have heard of, many will probably be totally unknown. It may be tempting to opt for the cheapest option promising the features you want, but you must first investigate the company.

Most smarthome devices you bring into your home communicate with cloud servers. The question is, "who owns these servers?" When you examine a product recently released from an unknown manufacturer, there is no way to know for sure where it will communicate until someone tests it. . Unless you are a safe researcher who likes the challenge, you probably should not be the guinea pig.

And next to that, the biggest problem with smarthomes is that your devices may stop working. The company may go bankrupt, disappear or decide to switch to a new product and get support.
Staying with a large, well-known company does not guarantee that this will not happen, as we see when Lowe killed Iris. But what you get is a balance sheet to review. By browsing the history of the company, you can see how viable it is and whether the company supports its products for a few months or even years.

And with an established story, you can even see what a company handles in case of failure. Wyze, the maker of some of the cheapest products on the market, has come across a problem where the camera feed traffic went through servers in China. The company explained what had happened, why and how it would solve the problem.

You may not like that to happen, but at least you know you can make an informed decision about whether or not to buy the product, and that's the bottom line. If you have found a product from a new manufacturer, try to find reviews from multiple sites. If all you can find is Amazon reviews, check Fakespot to see if the reviews are real. Try to find the history that you can before making the purchase. If you do not find an established history or real reviews, ignore the gadget.

RELATED: Your Smarthome setup may stop and you can not do anything about it.

Do not access your Smarthome from public Wi-Fi

Just like you do not have to check your bank account from the public Wi-Fi network, avoid accessing your smartphone from public Wi-Fi. Even if you are certain that you are a legitimate Wi-Fi network, you may potentially expose the devices in your home to anyone who listens to them. It's best not to do anything sensible on public Wi-Fi networks.

If you need remote access to your home, use a device with LTE (such as your phone) or consider setting up a personal computer. Virtual Private Network (VPN) to connect securely.

RELATED: Why Using a Public Wi-Fi Network Can Be Dangerous Even When Accessing Encrypted Websites

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