3 Tips for Protecting Your Smart Home Devices from Hackers

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Think you may be getting tech gifts this Christmas? Smart home devices—from light bulbs to thermostats to coffee pots—make great gift items. These devices, referred to collectively as the Internet of Things (IoT), are on the frontier of tech innovation, changing the way we interact with everyday household items in some helpful ways.

But with these innovative new devices come security risks. Remember that Friday back in October when it seemed like half of the Internet, including sites like Twitter and Netflix, went down? This was the result of cybercriminals infecting a large number of smart home devices with malware and turning them into an army of zombie computers (more officially referred to as a botnet) that took down DynDNS, a service provider to many major websites.

This kind of widespread cyberattack using a large number of unsuspecting users’ smart home devices is an early warning sign of what could happen if users aren’t more vigilant over their connected devices. Thankfully, increased vigilance isn’t that difficult. Here are 3 tips for making your smart home devices safe from cyberattack.

1. Buy Hardware from Reputable Vendors

Many of the smart home devices that were used in the attack on DynDNS in October actually came from vendors who did not provide regular software updates to their products to prevent security vulnerabilities. Software will always have security flaws, meaning that it’s crucial to buy from vendors who actively create and send out security patches to their devices.

Generally speaking, the brands that you recognize and trust will be the best about regularly releasing updates and patches. Brands on the forefront of technology, such as Google and Apple, tend to prioritize security, so they are usually good about updating devices often.

As you may have guessed, these vendors also tend to sell their devices at higher prices than some of their cut-rate competitors. But the old saying that you get what you pay for definitely applies in this case—and when security is involved, it’s worth your while to spend a bit extra.

2. Apply Software Updates Regularly

Getting regular software updates from a vendor won’t do much good unless you actually take the time to apply them on your smart home devices. We know – it’s often more convenient to ignore those notifications that you need to update your devices. But taking a few minutes to apply updates is critical to keeping your devices – and your home – safe from hackers.

Some devices install updates automatically, but others require action on the part of the user. If you can be diligent about remembering to apply an update, it is OK to wait a couple days after receiving a notification that an update is available. In some rare cases, vendor updates can cause problems with a device, and waiting a few days can give the vendor time to find and address any flaws in their updates.

3. Change Default Usernames and Passwords

Many smart home devices come with standard defaults for the username and password. These defaults are intended to make your first time logging in easy, with the assumption that you will change your username and/or password in order to make the device more secure. Unfortunately, many people skip this step, leaving the username as “admin” and the password as “password.” This makes hacking your devices a snap. So make sure to take an extra few minutes to change these credentials when you’re first setting up your new smart home device.

Wondering whether your smart home devices are secure, or need help setting them up? Give us a call today!