How To Secure And Protect Your Smart Home From Hackers

With the popularity of the internet, thanks to social media and other online platforms, data is the most sought-after resource in today’s world. 

A large part of people’s lives is now available online for everyone to see, but what about the information you want to keep hidden? Is it really safe? 

We often hear about cyber attacks on multinational companies or the stock market; that said, you shouldn’t forget that smart homes are equally at risk. The innumerable devices that make your daily life easier are those that hackers target first to access the valuable information on your phones or laptops. 

So, today’s guide will look at what you can do to stay safe and prevent cyber attacks from wreaking havoc in your life. Make no mistake; cyber security is extremely essential; hence, governments around the world are spending billions to shore up their cyber defenses. 

How to Protect Your Smart Home from Hackers

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How Do Hackers Operate? 

Before we talk about protecting smart homes, you should know how hackers operate and break security systems. 

A smart home relies on internet connectivity to fulfill your commands and ensure that all the appliances perform at optimum capacity. Naturally, anything connected to the wider public network can be hacked or accessed remotely by outside users. 

Now, all devices have their respective advantages and disadvantages, so you should weigh the pros and cons. If you find that any device doesn’t have built-in security or fails to provide regular updates, it’s not worth the risk. 

In other words, these are the weaklings in your smart home that the hackers target to access valuable information. As a result, you should explore the potential vulnerabilities of any device to safeguard your home from cyber attacks. 

One of the best ways to reduce instances of hacking is by securing every device with a password while updating the default settings of the master router. 

Protecting Your Smart Devices

Installing smart devices for the safety and security of your home is a noble thought, with millions of Americans opting to use security cameras and IoT devices. Unfortunately, even modern technology can’t guarantee complete security, and you should know that smart home devices are prone to security risks. 

So, does that mean you should stop using them? Not at all, and that’s why we have formulated this guide; all you need is to ensure that your smart devices are well protected, and they will do their job. 

You can note the following points on improving the security features of smart home devices to stop hackers. 

1. Choosing A Suitable Smart Device 

Ask yourself why you need a smart device? For instance, if you want to install a security camera, are you looking to keep an eye out for something specific, or instead want to focus on 24×7 surveillance? 

This is because most smart devices can connect to the internet, increasing the risk of your private information going online. As a result, you should consider whether you need such a device in the first place. 

In case you do, it would be best to check whether it comes with built-in security features. Moreover, we suggest purchasing PoE or Power over Ethernet devices since they are more reliable than a regular smart home device. 

Normal devices with a wi-fi connection are easier to hack, while the firewall of PoE devices is much stronger. 

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2. Change The Username 

Remember to change the username when you’re setting up specific devices, such as a smart TV or smart speakers. This is especially important if you’ve got wireless routers as they control a major part of the smart home technology. 

While setting up internet-connected devices through smart home apps, ensure that it doesn’t create a default account by using the information from your phone. Most hackers search for default names, making it easier to log into the system. 

Not to mention, a common router may connect to several interlinked devices. Hence, changing the default username becomes even more crucial since a security breach on one device might affect your entire home security network. 

3. Strong Password 

It’s pretty basic that you should have a strong password unique to every device, reducing the chances of data breaches. You must note that most routers have a default password that’s extremely easy to hack, or worse, they come with no security whatsoever. 

What’s more, it would help if you keep updating the passwords several times a year for further protection against online threats. That said, constantly changing passwords can be cumbersome, so we recommend using a password manager. 

This way, you can create strong passwords for all connected devices, but the best part is that you won’t have to remember them all separately. The password manager will take care of things for you.

Other than that, hackers will have a hard time breaking in, thanks to the random passwords that the password manager generates. You can also check how long it has been since you last changed the password (even for the password manager) for maximum protection of a smart home network. 

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4. Enable Two-Factor Authentication

A two-factor authentication acts as a second line of defense, enhancing smart home security if the hackers gain access to your username and password. In other words, even if they enter the correct login credentials, they will need a special code to get into the system. 

This code is usually sent to your mobile devices via text or email, and you have to enter a new code every time an unverified network tries to gain access. As a result, two-step authentication is essential to keep your sensitive information safe from hackers. 

What’s more impressive is that since you receive a code anytime unknown entities try to log in, you can change the password immediately. That said, there are several types of second-step verification apart from codes. 

Sometimes you may have to answer a question or use a fingerprint scanner to confirm your identity. 

5. Don’t Use Public Wi-Fi 

As a rule, it would be best to stay away from a public wi-fi connection because they are not secure. It’s easy for hackers to monitor public connections and use malware to get into the system, thereby exposing tons of sensitive information. 

Hence, the chances of a potential security threat increase manifold if your home security system is connected to such a network. Also, most online activity is susceptible to attacks, so you need to choose when to use the wi-fi router. 

For instance, most consumers use their mobile data for simple tasks like voice activation to turn on the lights. Also, if you’ve got unlimited data, it’s possible to operate garage door openers, security cameras, and a video doorbell, but a VPN would serve you better to prevent unauthorized remote access. 

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6. Control Smartphone App Permissions 

Smartphone apps track user activity and store private information to improve your experience. On the flip side, a cyberattack could expose all that information, so it’s essential to check what data the app uses. 

Many consumers check “yes” and enable all the permissions for any specific app. However, if you don’t need certain features like location or Bluetooth connectivity, deny the permissions to stay safe. 

What’s more, all the smart home devices are interconnected and share the data with each other, which could go against you. Don’t get us wrong; it makes operating devices easier, but you should know about the risks. 

For example, when a device needs replacing, unlink it from the rest of the network to deny a free passage to hackers. Similarly, after you purchase a new phone, delete the apps from the old model for maximum home network security. 

7. Use Verified Smart Home Technology Brands 

There’s no hiding from the fact that smart appliances, including security systems, are expensive, but that’s no reason to compromise on quality. Even though you might not want to spend a lot of money on smart home devices, it’s vital to keep communications secure. 

Choosing reputable smart home technology brands will serve you well since they take added precautions to keep the data safe. That’s not to say they can’t be hacked, but it certainly reduces the chances of a security breach. 

Moreover, before purchasing, ensure that the device comes with the necessary security and software updates to protect your smart home network. You can also read the user manuals and privacy policies to understand how the brands use your personal information. 

Usually, reading customer reviews will provide a fair idea about whether you can trust the organization. 

8. Secure Your Smart Home Devices And Wi-Fi

We have spoken about how you can use passwords to secure your smart home network, but they aren’t the only way to protect smart homes. In this section, we have narrowed down some home security tips for your benefit: 

A. Privacy Settings 

We suggest viewing the privacy settings of every appliance before installation and changing them to the highest security option. Also, make sure to disable remote access, provided that you don’t need it. 

B. Wi-Fi Settings 

While setting up the wi-fi, remember to change the default settings and update the current password. More often than not, default passwords are mentioned on the router, which is known to the service provider; this might pose a severe risk. 

You should have a strong password unique to your network; most importantly, it should be different from other devices. Hence, it would help if you access the product information page or the router settings by visiting the manufacturer’s website. 

What’s more, coordinate with the service provider on the latest security updates to protect individual devices. 

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9. Monitor Home Networks 

You already know that the router is the nerve center that guarantees the smooth operation of all other appliances. As such, you should check whether it has an encryption method to secure your communication network. 

Most people prefer WPA2, while you can also set up guest networks for IoT devices. Doing so will allow you to optimize the performance of security systems to protect your smart home, as mobiles and laptops will be separate from the IoT devices. 

The best part is that even if the system gets hacked, the hackers will be unable to access all the information. 

10. Security Software 

We understand that home security is challenging, but security software available on the market makes it easier. The major advantage of this software is that it protects various devices, like smart TVs and baby monitors, through the router. 

Since the router is safe, you can rest assured that your smart home devices will offer substantial fightback against online threats. Additionally, such software programs have a strong password manager system in place, creating robust passwords for individual devices and storing them in a safe location. 

Long story short, you can provide a safe passage to trusted devices while stopping possible intruders.  

11. Update The Firmware 

By now, you’re well aware that the router is an easy target for hackers to access devices like a smart thermostat or smart speaker. Hence, simply updating the password and username isn’t enough; that’s why companies offer bug fixes and roll out new features over time. 

Ensuring that your devices are equipped with the latest updates will reduce security risks and protect your smart home. Also, most smart home devices automatically update over the wi-fi network, but you’ll have to manually update certain appliances. 

These updates consist of security patches that iron out the flaws in the system. As a result, we recommend setting weekly reminders so that you never miss another update. 

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12. Replace Old Devices 

Having old and worn-out devices increases the chances of a security breach, and you should always use the latest technology. Most people confuse high internet speed or optimum performance with security, but the reality is different. 

If your router or the smart thermostat has been in use for several years, it would be best to replace it, because these might pose severe risks to your security. Outdated devices might be incompatible with the latest updates and use legacy security protocols, making them easy targets for hackers. 

However, simply buying the latest router won’t help either; you should make sure that your appliances are compatible with it. 

13. Splitting The Network 

One of the basic aspects of cyber security is splitting the network to protect your smart home. In fact, service providers and reputable brands advise people not to use the fridge and laptop on the same network. 

This is because it’s easier to hack into a smart fridge than a laptop, and once the hackers are in, they can extract all the information over the same network. Thus, a good practice would be to store your sensitive information on a separate network while using a different wi-fi network for running the appliances. 

Not to mention, it clears the bandwidth for browsing and streaming so that you can make maximum use of the high-speed internet. And on the off chance that hackers break through the firewall, you won’t have to worry as the malware will be unable to infect important devices like mobiles and laptops. 

Anxious architect with housing project under his arm texting to client

Importance Of Using A VPN 

Finally, let’s talk a bit about VPNs, which we’ve already mentioned once in passing. A VPN or Virtual Private Network guarantees online privacy by creating a private network irrespective of your location. Whenever you’re using a public network, you should always opt for a VPN; in fact, most smart homeowners should get a VPN for added security even on private networks. 

But why is it so popular, and what makes VPNs different from regular security features? For starters, it encrypts all the data so that no one can spy on your personal information and hides your IP address and location. 

Secondly, you can bypass internet restrictions in other countries while accessing easily hackable sites like shopping forums without any worry. And due to the advanced encryption features used by VPN providers, hackers will be unable to steal any personal data. 

Final Words 

One thing’s for sure: you should never be complacent about online security, no matter what your friends or relatives tell you. With so much data available online through social media and shopping portals, you can’t afford to take any chances. 

Even something as innocuous as smart speakers can constantly monitor your activities and record conversations that are best kept private. Naturally, spending a little extra on updating the appliances, buying the latest software, and protecting your wi-fi network will go a long way in ensuring your family’s safety. 

For anything else, contact your service provider or an ethical hacker to know more about deflecting cyber attacks.

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