During Spring Cleaning, Don’t Forget About Smart Home Security
In the spring, people take time to dive into their New Year’s resolution to clean and organize their homes and get rid of the old. But do you also think about cleaning up your cyber life?
Just as you clean out old clutter from your home, you should periodically check your smart devices to make sure everything is in tip-top shape. This includes updating software, hardware and managing your security. Here are five different things you should be doing right now to spring clean your smart home.
Change your passwords
The first thing to do is change your passwords and consult a password manager. Changing your passwords periodically is a simple security measure that ensures that you are not using old, easy-to-guess passwords. Many programs and services will automatically remind you to change your passwords, especially if it’s work-related.
If you can’t keep track of passwords or find strong ones, check out a password manager. Programs like 1Password or Dashlane will keep a list of all your passwords, suggest new secure ones, and help you change them all in one source vault. You only need to remember the master password to access your vault. It is much easier to remember one password than 50 because each password should be unique and hard to guess. Some services like Chrome and iCloud have built-in password managers you can use.
A quick rule for creating a password on your own is to use numbers, symbols, capitals and make it a random sequence of words, but a longer password is always better than a complex password . The combination of length and complexity will result in a much stronger password.
Enable two-factor authentication
Another source of security is to enable two-factor authentication (2FA). 2FA creates a second layer of hard encryption to get your data. You don’t need to know all the encryption details; you usually only need a phone number or a second device to access your data. For example, suppose you want to connect to a service. This service will call you or send a random code to your phone, or display the code on a secondary device. You place this code in your sign-in device within a specific time limit to sign in.
By ensuring that you are the only one logging into your devices, your security is high. You can then choose to trust specific devices, allowing you to log in without using 2FA every time.
You should also periodically check the list of trusted devices to make sure there’s nothing old or unused – or worse, that an unknown device has made its way onto the list.
It’s best to turn on automatic updates, but you should definitely take a day to check all your devices and operating systems to make sure everything is up to date. In addition to introducing new features and quality of life changes, companies use software updates to increase the security features of their devices.
You’re going to want to make sure all the devices in the ecosystem are up to date as well. If a cloud-based device is vulnerable, it can create a hole in the whole ecosystem. Remember that individual devices need to be checked. For example, if you have multiple smart speakers, check that each speaker is running the latest software.
If you can afford it, upgrade your old devices. Planned obsolescence is not a confirmed policy of technology manufacturers, but companies eventually stop supporting devices. When devices reach end of life, they no longer receive these security software updates and are subject to new means of security hacking.
You don’t always have to have the latest and greatest device, but the technology is very sensitive if it’s no longer supported but still connects to the internet. End of life typically occurs after five years, and technology can improve significantly during this time.
Upgrading your devices is especially important in light of recent news from Wyze that the original version of the camera suffered from a security breach for three years, but only subsequent versions have been patched.
Finally, try consolidating your devices into a single ecosystem or brand. Although this may seem counter-intuitive, it generally makes device management easier. Having all devices running Google Assistant, Apple HomeKit, or Amazon’s Alexa presents a single place to watch your smart home. This can be used as a quick stop to organize and check that devices haven’t gotten out of sync with your home and gone rogue.
Following these five steps will ensure that your smart home is as protected as it usually can be. Of course, you can go further by using VPNs, hardware keys and other safety measures, but once you follow these basics, you’ll have a lot more room to breathe. No security measure is perfect, but following a few basic practices will significantly reduce your risk.