Internet-enabled devices are now a part of the fabric of our everyday lives, enabling us to do once-tedious tasks with greater ease and extending the Internet’s functionality into the material world like never before. These devices make up the Internet of Things, a network of objects that connect to the Internet to share and receive data, be controlled by users, and more. Smartphones, smart homes, and all manner of smart devices are all parts of the Internet of Things. But while this means our lives are becoming more convenient and connected via the IoT, it also means devices that were never vulnerable to hacking and data breaches before are now at risk. When it comes to your personal effects, that’s a scary thought. Here are eight steps you can take to secure your personal IoT devices against digital intruders.
Before you set about securing your devices, you need to know which items you’ll need to protect. While some Internet-enabled devices are obvious, like smartphones and laptops, there are others that you might not think are vulnerable – or that you might not even know are connected to the Internet. Take stock of all of your electronics and find out which ones are Internet-enabled. Many of these will probably still be on their factory settings, meaning they have a default username and password, which makes them particularly vulnerable. DVRs, video game systems, and GPS devices are among the devices that can be hacked by unscrupulous criminals looking to steal information
Update Your Firmware
The software powering your devices, whether it’s your AppleTV or your Fitbit, is constantly being updated by the manufacturer. Sometimes these updates are to remove glitches or improve functionality, but other times it’s to repair vulnerabilities. Make sure you’re connected with email lists that send out updates for your devices. You may need to plug your devices into your computer to update the software. Check for firmware updates often and install them when necessary.
Create A Unique Network
While having one of your IoT devices hacked is an annoyance, it doesn’t need to be the end of the world. But if all of your devices are connected to one Wi-Fi network, one IoT device being compromised could result in your computer being hacked as well, which could have much more dire consequences. You probably don’t need another router: most ISPs will let you create a “guest” network that you can use for your IoT devices to keep them safely quarantined from your computer.
Know Your Enemy
While many hackers are eager to gain access to information they can use to steal your identity, like your social security number, some are just looking for devices to add to a botnet. A botnet is a network of computers, mobile devices, and IoT devices infected with a particular strain of malware and controlled by a single hacker or group. This group infects as many devices as possible and uses them for automated tasks, often in such a way that users don’t even know they’ve been compromised. In October of 2016, a botnet caused massive Internet outages with an attack incorporating thousands of hacked DVRs, webcams, and CCTV cameras. You need to be wary of hackers after your info, as well as those trying to add your device to their botnet.
Disable Autoconnect Features
Many IoT devices have a feature called Autoconnect or Plug and Play that allows them to automatically connect to the Internet or to other devices. You’ll see this feature on printers, cameras, and more. While it’s intended to be convenient, it’s actually a major way that your devices are vulnerable, so disable it so that your devices require you to confirm any connections they make.