Smart technology has the potential to streamline your life and make everything from getting out of bed in the morning to locking up at night easier. Investing in automated systems and appliances with Wi-Fi capability and mobile integration is one of the simplest ways to join the smart home revolution. And with all the hype around the power of smart technology, it’s easy to assume that a home automation system with security applications will, itself, be secure. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case.
Home Automation Isn’t Perfectly Secure
When it comes to home automation, the security of your personal Internet of Things (IoT) can’t be overlooked. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, IoT refers to the growing network of interconnected objects and devices that use the Internet to communicate and store information. On the surface, it’s as simple as connecting your Wi-Fi enabled coffee maker to your smartphone to make sure you wake to freshly brewed java every morning. Yet, because IoT devices rely on Internet connectivity, they’re just as vulnerable to hackers and security breaches as all of your other online interactions.
Understandably, a network that connects just about everything in your life, from house alarms and door locks to family calendars and medical data, is one that you don’t want anyone breaking into.
The reality is, though, that every device you connect gives hackers one more potential gateway into your network. Because many smart devices are small, low-cost gadgets designed to meet the most immediate demands of this emerging industry, many products go to market without fully developed security protocols or encryption abilities. Plus, when you use several different devices and connection services, you end up with a number of consumer information policies to keep track of — each with different stipulations about how your information will be handled.
Luckily, there are steps you can take to mitigate these potential security risks.
What Can You Do to Prevent Security Breaches?
Earlier this year there was some good discussion about current and future IoT security practices. While there haven’t been any industry-wide leaps forward, many of the suggested solutions can be implemented, in part, on an individual level. So whether you’ve already adopted the IoT or are still toying with the idea, here’s what some of those proposed security measures mean for your journey through the world of home automation.
Start with Security in Mind
Whether you’re building your system yourself or working with a kit, do your homework before you ever connect your smartphone to the thermostat. It’s much easier to start with a secure system than to try and patch up an insecure one. Certain devices emphasize security as a top priority, and those are the devices you want to work with.
Don’t be distracted by the bells and whistles of fancy systems. Instead, focus on things like the available encryption strength or the company’s commitment to long-term security support. Look for developers that emphasize sustainability in addition to a convenient user experience. You don’t want a system that will be completely vulnerable and outdated in a matter of months.
Maximise Security Features
It’s a big mistake to settle for the default security settings on your smart devices. Become familiar with the access control and authorization protocols of every device you use, and make the most of them. Default configurations are available to the masses, making them an invitation for a cyberattack. Most devices offer enhanced security options, but you have to take the time to enable them. Find out the level of security you can add to each device and learn how to upgrade it from factory defaults.
Always change a device’s default password to a strong password that includes a random combination of numbers, symbols, and both uppercase and lowercase letters. Make use of password generators to come up with and manage complicated passwords that are difficult to hack. Likewise, enable two-factor authentication (2FA) wherever possible. The extra time it takes to log in will be well worth it when your security deters a would-be attack.
Protect Your Network
The configuration and security of your home network can be either a critical line of defense or an exploitable weakness. To make sure it’s not the latter, set your router to employ the strongest encryption available. In most cases, WPA2 encryption — with a secure password — is going to be your safest bet.
Another smart move is to segment network access. Most wireless routers will let you set up more than one network, allowing you to have separate networks for home automation devices, TVs and computers, and guest Wi-Fi. Segmenting your networks and the devices configured to each means that if someone breaks into your laptop network, they won’t automatically gain access to everything else in your home.
Be Prepared for an Attack
Because there’s no way to absolutely guarantee that your security measures won’t be breached, you need to be prepared for that possibility. Limit what personal information is stored on or accessible from your IoT devices. Make sure all transfers of data are encrypted, and don’t store transactions records on a device or network.
If you do experience a breach, make sure you have a plan. You can minimize the damage by limiting the data available and making data that was compromised useless. Immediately change all passwords; contact credit bureaus, banks, and credit card companies; and document everything you do. Once you know the extent of the breach, you should also file a police report to have an official record that will assist with fighting identity theft.
It’s a simple fact that the freedom and convenience of home automation comes with some intrinsic risk. However, as IoT technology continues to grow, security is becoming more important to both developers and regulatory agencies. In the interim, the best way to protect yourself as you adopt this exciting new technology is to remain aware of potential threats and how to combat them. If you’ve done your due diligence, you can enjoy the perks of home automation with relatively minimal risk.