6 min read
Don't trade top-notch convenience for low-level cyber security.
Science fiction has struck out on a few guesses, like flying cars roaming the skies in 2005 or humans living on the moon in 1999. However, sci-fi has accurately predicted 3D printing, robotic vacuums, wearable technology and smart homes.
In sci-fi books and movies, use technology for sinister motives. In real life, cyber thieves are the villains. That's why you need to know these 6 tips for securing vulnerable smart home technology.
What Does “Smart Home” Mean?
SmartHomeUSA defines a smart home as:  “A residence that has appliances, lighting, heating, air conditioning, TVs, computers, entertainment audio and video systems, security and camera systems that are capable of communicating with one another and can be controlled remotely by a time schedule, from any room in the home, as well as remotely from any location in the world by phone or internet. ”Additional smart home devices include:
- By locks
- Smoke alarms
- Vacuum cleaners
- Smart speakers such as Google Home and Amazon Echo
According to a report created by NPR and Edison Research smart speakers are owned by 21% of the United States population over the age of 18. That's 53 million people! The same report found that sma rt speaker ownership in U.S. Households grew by 78% from December 2017 to December 2018.
Smart Home Advantages
When you start making your home "smart," you'll gain the benefits of:
- Energy efficiency
- Synced and automated processes
- ] Extra security for your home when you're not there
- Numerous devices being controlled from a tablet or phone
Smart Home Vulnerabilities
Some smart home disadvantages include:
- Dedicating time to research before setup
- Paying large setup costs
- Relying on IT professionals when something goes wrong
- Having your data collected by devices  Last, but not least, companies have no cyber security requirements for the smart devices they create. Cyber thieves exploit unsecure devices and they're like safecrackers who easily bypass poorly built locks.
To demonstrate the modern cyber thief's skills, CBC Marketplace hired a team of ethical hackers to compromise a family's smart home. With a successful phishing email, the hackers:
- Opened the home's front by
- Logged in to the family's Nest security camera
- Hijacked the family's Amazon Echo and sent voice commands to it
A hacker looks for a point of entry on one device and then uses it to control other devices. For example, a hacker could enter through a smart washing machine and gain access to connected devices like doors or ovens.
As we mentioned earlier, smart devices often collect your data. Cyber thieves attempt to steal this data and use it for purchases.
Man-in-the-middle attacks happen when a hacker compromises an email address, browser, or Wi-Fi network to intercept communications. When a smart home suffers one of these attacks, the "man in the middle" has found a way to intercept communication between two systems or devices. This breach can be used to:
- Smart thermostat
- Disable HVAC systems
- Steal confidential information
6 Tips for Securing Smart Home Vulnerabilities
1. Use Multi-Factor Authentication  Multi-factor authentication requires you to provide an extra piece of information before you log in to an account. The message is sent to a text message in an access code.
This adds an extra layer of security to your devices. Unfortunately, cyber thieves know how to hijack this process by stealing phone numbers and swiping access codes. That's why it's preferable to use software or hardware for mobile multi-factor authentication.
Many smart home devices have built-in multi-factor authentication. If you have a smart home device that doesn't have this built in, use an app like Microsoft Authenticator, Authy, or Google Authenticator to set it up.
2 . Reinforce Your Wi-Fi Router
Your Wi-Fi router is something you should set up and forget about. You need to update its firmware, login, and password. This in-depth lifehacker guide provides more router safety recommendations, including:
- Securing your network with WPA2
- Turning off WPS
- Using MAC filtering
- Scheduling Wi-Fi
- Disabling questionable services
Contact an IT professional or tech-savvy family member if you're not comfortable making these changes by yourself.
3rd Download System Updates
You probably receive notifications to download system updates on your smart home devices. Don't ignore these notifications! System updates often include patch updates that address security flaws in devices.
4th Use Two Home Networks
Depending on which devices you purchase, your smart home can control critical processes like heating and cooling. That's why it's a good idea to create a separate wireless network for your smart home devices. The other network can be used for devices such as computers, smartphones, and tablets.
5th Make Wise Wi-Fi When You Are Away From Home
A smart security camera allows you to view real-time footage from your phone when you're at home. You can find peace of mind, but it could open up to more cybersecurity risks if you access the device through an unsecure Wi-Fi connection. Use these four steps to avoid Wi-Fi cyber theft :
- Connect to a trusted network or don't connect at all
- Don't use your email address or phone number to log in to a network
- Connect to a VPN
- Use multi-factor authentication
6. Decide Which Smart Devices You Really Need
In 2017, cyber thieves accessed a smart fish tank at a casino and tried to use it for a cyber attack. Did this casino really need to connect to a fish tank to the Internet? If you shop for smart home devices, ask yourself if the convenience justifies the risk.
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Contact your local Pekin Insurance agent to gain extra security from Identity Fraud Protection Services.