Smart devices are everywhere and their number keeps growing due to high demand. They are designed to make life more convenient, and in a world that’s getting busier all the time, it is no wonder that smart home technology is booming.
Adding more connected devices to your home, however, creates more potential entry points for cybercriminals who want to access your personal information. If you are wondering how to secure your smart home more effectively, here is a good place to start. I have compiled a list of 13 easy ways to secure your smart home, and most of them are absolutely free!
If I could offer one word of advice, it would be that smart home devices are becoming more affordable all the time, but when something is downright cheap, take some time to consider why. Many cheap or obscure brands offer little to no security, whereas well-established, reputable smart home brands offer excellent built-in security. Always try to invest in a product only if the company invests in security.
Good built-in security is a great starting point, but if you have multiple smart devices in your home, all it takes is for one of them to have a weakness that allows hackers to gain entry to your network. That is why it is a good idea to be proactive in securing your home network and smart devices as best you can.
After extensive research I have compiled a list that details how to secure your smart home in 13 easy steps.
1. Know what you are buying
2. Change any default account passwords and usernames
Most devices come pre-programmed with a generic name, usually the product make and model. Where it is possible, rename your device to something unrelated to the product. Most smart devices require you to register for an online account to use their control app. However, sometimes you will just be provided with a default username and password which are either common knowledge to hackers or can be easily guessed. It is vitally important that you change this password immediately and replace it with a strong random password. It is advised also that you change your passwords every few months to a year.
3. Rename your router
Your Wi-Fi router is the core of a smart home; without it, smart devices can’t function. And because all devices connect to the router, it makes the router the main means of access to your devices and accounts for cyber criminals. Ensure your router’s default name is changed, but be sure not to add any personal details such as your name or address.
4. Split your Wi-Fi network
Modern routers are often dual-band and run on both 5 GHz and 2.4 GHz frequencies. This in effect allows for two separate networks to be run on the same router. It is recommended you connect your devices as follows:-
- Connect smart appliances to 2.4 GHz and;
- Connect your computers/mobile phones to 5 GHz.
Once these steps have been completed, ensure to un-sync the two networks. This allows you to keep your personal data on a separate network to less secure smart devices. Another easy way of doing this is creating a guest network for smart devices.
5. Consider using a password manger app
It doesn’t matter how tech savvy you are – constantly creating new passwords and remembering them is a burden, and writing passwords down to remember them is very risky. Luckily there are numerous apps out there to help you with this. Password manager apps will generate super strong unique passwords for all of your accounts, and save them so you don’t need to remember them. Most of these apps will even sync between your devices, and auto fill your passwords and information for you securely.
6. Upgrade your router encryption and replace old routers
The latest encryption available for routers is WPA3 (Wi-Fi Protected Access). Most routers now come with WPA3 as standard, and you can simply update your encryption in your router settings. Old routers may still work just fine, but their security protocols are probably outdated, and these routers should be replaced to boost your security. Wi-Fi 6 is the latest Wi-Fi specification standard for routers and is designed to cope with multiple connected smart devices.
7. Use local storage where you can
No data storage solution is perfect. Storing your information on a hard drive or memory card is secure until someone unplugs and steals it. Similarly with cloud storage, which is generally secure, you cannot guarantee that no one will access your data at some point. More online accounts just means more ways for hackers to try and access your home and your data, so local storage makes sense. If you feel there is a possibility of break-in or theft, using cloud storage on its own or combined with local storage would be a good option.
8. Register your devices and ensure software is up to date
All software has weaknesses and tech companies are constantly working to improve their security. It is important to register your devices because it allows companies to inform you of new software updates and improvements. These updates should fix any known bugs and security issues. Ensure that all your devices auto update, and if not, update them yourself frequently.
9. Use two-factor authentication
Two-factor authentication (2FA) adds an extra layer of security to your online accounts. Most commonly used with online banking, once you have entered your password, you will be sent a one time pin (OTP) via text or email. Make sure your devices come with 2FA and that it is activated. There are also apps that provide 2FA for devices that don’t have it as standard.
10. Avoid free public Wi-Fi
Public Wi-Fi networks are high risk, and they can leave you vulnerable. Rather use a mobile phone hotspot if you can or install a VPN on your phone to keep your browsing secure.
11. Invest in a network monitoring
Next Generation Firewall (NGFW) is a network security device that offers protection far beyond the firewall that comes standard with your router. While these devices can be expensive, the level of security they add is worth it. And let’s be honest – if you can afford multiple smart home devices, investing in a device or two for security purposes makes complete sense.
12. Factory reset devices before you get rid of them
This is especially important when it comes to mobile phones and computers. First, ensure all your data is properly backed up, then follow the manufacturer’s instructions and wipe the device of all your personal data by doing a complete factory reset. This way your personal information won’t find its way into the wrong hands.
13. Disable features you don’t use
Smart devices are mainly controlled via mobile app, and most apps allow for remote control when you are away from home. Smart speakers, some smart TVs and smart thermostats also feature voice control. The majority of these features are enabled as standard. If you find that you hardly use voice control for your TV, or Bluetooth for your smart speaker, it is better to disable the features you don’t use. If you find you don’t really access your smart devices remotely, it would be a good idea to disable that feature if possible.
Securing your smart devices requires a bit of work upfront, but being secure in the knowledge that you have taken extra measures to protect your home and your data will be worth the effort. If you want to secure your smart home but feel you need help to do so, consider professional installation and have trained technicians do it for you.
What to do next?
If you enjoyed this article and found it informative, visit Mission Smart Home to get more ideas for your smart home.