Smart homes and smart home devices are becoming increasingly popular for the convenience and peace of mind they bring. Using only your phone, you can easily turn off those lights you forgot downstairs or check if your dog has turned your house into a mess while you’re at work.
As the world becomes more connected, however, the potential for your devices to get hacked also increases exponentially. Cybercriminals have gotten more innovative and sophisticated in the methods they use to try and penetrate your smart home network.
In this article, we’ll give you a full understanding of what you’re up against. We’ll also show you a few practical tips that are crucial for keeping your smart home devices safe from hackers.
As the methods cybercriminals use continue to evolve, it’s important to stay up to date with the latest methods and protection measures. We looked into the latest news and incidents of smart home hacking. We also sought expert insights on how to deal with it successfully.
The last thing you want is to leave yourself vulnerable to hacking. Keep reading until the very end and find out the most critical security measure to ensure you’re safe from hacking.
12 tips to keep your smart home safe from hackers
When it comes to your family and your home, you can never be too careful. Here are a few practical tips you can apply to keep your smart home protected against hackers:
- Keep your software up to date with the latest security patches
One of the most important things you can do to keep your home network secure is to ensure your device’s software and firmware are up to date.
Operating systems, web browsers, and other applications are constantly being improved, and security patches are released regularly. By keeping your software up to date, you can help to protect your devices against the latest security threats.
Many software applications will install updates automatically, but it’s always a good idea to check manually from time to time. In addition, be sure to install any security updates as soon as they become available.
- Use strong and unique usernames and passwords for all your devices and accounts
One of the first things you should do when setting up a new smart home device is to change the default username and password.
Many devices come with weak or easily guessed passwords, which can leave them open to attack. By changing the default credentials, you can make it much harder for hackers to gain access to your devices.
A strong password should be at least 8 characters long and contain a mix of letters, numbers, and symbols. Avoid using easily guessed words like “password” or easily accessible personal information like your birthdate.
- Enable two-factor authentication
If available, you should enable two-factor authentication for your smart home devices.
This adds an extra layer of security by requiring you to enter a second code (usually generated by an app on your phone) in addition to your password. Even if a hacker manages to guess your password, they won’t be able to access your account without the second code.
- Use a VPN
When setting up your smart home network, you should use a virtual private network (VPN). A VPN encrypts the traffic between your devices and the internet, making it more difficult for hackers to steal your data.
- Use a firewall to protect your home network
A firewall is a piece of software that helps to protect your home network from malicious traffic. By configuring your firewall properly, you can help to prevent hackers from gaining access to your devices.
- Avoid public WiFi networks
Whenever possible, you should avoid using public WiFi networks to connect your smart home devices. These networks are typically not as secure as private ones, and they can be an easy way for hackers to gain access to your devices.
If you must use a public WiFi network, be sure to use a VPN to encrypt your traffic.
- Replace your outdated routers and modems
Updating your router and modem on a regular basis is important for several reasons. Practically speaking, newer devices are generally faster and more reliable than older ones.
In terms of security, new devices often include security updates that can help to protect your network from hackers. Updated devices are also more likely to be compatible with new types of technology, such as the latest generation of WiFi.
If you haven’t updated your router or modem in several years, it’s definitely time for an upgrade. You’ll be surprised at the difference it makes in terms of speed and reliability.
- Make sure your home network is encrypted.
One of the best things you can do to protect your smart home from hackers is to make sure your home network is encrypted. WPA2 is the most secure type of encryption available, so be sure to use it if your devices support it.
- Check your device’s permissions and only give them to apps you trust
Many apps will ask for more access than they actually need, so it’s important to be aware of what they’re asking for. Only install apps from trusted sources and be sure to read the reviews before installing anything.
- Be careful what you share online
You should also be careful about what you share online, as this can be used by hackers to access your smart home devices.
Avoid sharing personal information or details about your smart home set-up on social media or public forums. If you must share these details, make sure to do so in a secure and private message.
- Keep an eye out for suspicious activity
Even if you take all the necessary precautions, there’s always a possibility that your smart home could be hacked. It’s important to keep an eye out for suspicious activity, such as devices that turn on or off by themselves, strange messages appearing on your device, or unusual network activity.
If you notice anything out of the ordinary, it’s best to change your passwords and contact your manufacturer or service provider immediately.
- Stick with reputable brands and service providers
When setting up your smart home, it’s important to only use reputable brands and service providers. Research each device and service before you purchase anything, and make sure to read the reviews. Reputable companies will usually have better security measures in place to protect their products from hackers.
Despite all these security measures, always remember that no device is ever 100% foolproof. There are so many things that you simply won’t have control over, such as the server of the manufacturers, the bugs in updates, or the weak code your devices have.
At the end of the day, your best bet against hackers is still yourself. Perhaps more important than keeping your software updated is keeping yourself updated about the latest scams, security threats, and methods cybercriminals use to exploit weaknesses in your network.
Technology is evolving rapidly, and along with it are the security threats. Make sure to always look at resources and study how you can keep yourself protected from these growingly more sophisticated attacks.
What can hackers do with your smart home devices?
Most people are aware that their computer is vulnerable to hacking, but few realize that their entire home can now be controlled by hackers as well. With the rise of the Internet of Things, or “smart” devices that are connected to the internet, hackers have a larger pool of potential targets.
Everything from your lights and thermostat to your security system and garage door can now be accessed remotely. This gives hackers a lot of power over your home, and they can use it to cause mischief or even commit crimes.
If hackers gain access to your smart home devices, they can do several things, including:
- Eavesdropping on your conversations
- Watching you through your security cameras
- Stealing your personal information
- Taking control of your smart home devices
- Using your devices to launch attacks on other devices on your network
- Infecting your devices with malware
- Causing physical damage to your devices or property
Hackers could even hold your entire home hostage by demanding ransom in exchange for regaining control of your devices.
So, it’s important to be aware of the risks that come with this new technology.
How do hackers gain access to your smart home devices?
There are a number of ways that hackers can gain access to your smart home devices:
Hackers can use a technique known as “wardriving” to scan for weak or unencrypted Wi-Fi networks, which they can then exploit to gain access to connected devices.
Once they’ve gained access to a device, hackers can eavesdrop on conversations, steal sensitive information, or even hijack the device to launch attacks on other systems.
If you have an unsecured network, hackers can easily connect to it and start snooping around. They can also use your Wi-Fi connection to launch attacks on other devices on the network.
One common method is known as “sniffing.” This involves using special software to intercept data packets that are being sent between your device and the router.
By decrypting these packets, hackers can glean a variety of information about your devices and how they’re being used. In some cases, this can even allow them to take control of the device
3. Brute force attacks
Another common method of hacking smart home devices is known as “brute force” attacks. This involves trying to guess the password for your device by using a program that automatically generates millions of possible combinations.
While this method can be time-consuming, it’s often successful if the password isn’t properly safeguarded.
If you have a device that isn’t password protected, or if you’re using the default password that came with the device, hackers can easily gain access.
What smart home devices are prone to hacking?
While any smart home device that’s connected to the internet is vulnerable to hacking, some devices are more prone to attacks than others.
1. Smart thermostats
Smart thermostats are one of the latest devices to be targeted by hackers. By gaining control of a victim’s smart thermostat, hackers can not only disrupt the victim’s daily routine but also cause long-term damage to their property.
In some cases, hackers have been able to gain access to a victim’s home network through their smart thermostat. This allows them to steal personal information or launch attacks on other devices on the network.
2. Smart lights
By accessing the Wi-Fi network that controls the lights, hackers can gain control of the lighting system and use it to disrupt businesses or households.
In some cases, hackers have even been able to use smart lights to create denial-of-service attacks, causing widespread power outages.
3. Smart locks
Though they were designed for security, smart locks have fallen victim to a new breed of hackers.
By taking advantage of the locks’ Bluetooth and WiFi connections, hackers can gain access to homes and businesses without ever having to physically break in.
Hackers have even been known to use smart locks to hold buildings hostage, demanding a ransom before allowing the occupants to enter.
4. Smart cameras
Hackers can access the camera’s feed and watch people in real-time, or they can access recordings of people and their personal information.
They can also use smart cameras to launch denial-of-service attacks, which disable the camera and prevent it from recording.
In some cases, hackers have even been able to remotely control the camera and use it to take pictures or videos of people without their knowledge.
As the number of smart devices in homes and businesses continues to grow, so too does the risk of hacking. While there are a number of ways to protect your devices from hackers, the best defense is always a good offense.
Keep your devices up-to-date with the latest security patches, use strong passwords, firewalls, and VPNs that make it much more difficult for hackers to gain access to your devices, and most importantly, keep yourself informed when it comes to the latest security threats and methods hackers use to exploit weaknesses in your network.
Remember that at the end of the day, your best bet when it comes to network security will always be yourself.