Smart home technology is designed to make our lives easier. By connecting appliances and utilities like our central heating, our alarm systems, our fridges and our TVs to the internet, we can remotely control them from our mobile phones, allowing us to keep any eye on what’s going on at home, and saving time and money in the process.
The downside to this is that by connecting everything to the web, we may be unwittingly leaving ourselves open to digital burglars. Hackers are now supremely sophisticated and have found ways to bypass security passwords to access your personal data.
From your fridge to your phone, nothing is off limits to opportunistic hackers. With this in mind, we take a look at some of the simple things you should be doing to protect your home…
Before you buy
If you’re eyeing up a snazzy new smart home gadget, ensure you do your homework before you part with your cash. Look at how often the manufacturer releases security updates and read reviews of the product’s security features. If there’s no mention of security in the product spec then avoid buying it. The general rule of thumb is the more reputable and recognisable the brand, the more likely it will have robust security measures in place.
Did you know it’s easier for hackers to access your data if you don’t update default security passwords? As well as updating default settings, make sure you choose different passwords for different devices. We all know it’s a headache to have multiple passwords but it’s also a fact that this is the safest way to keep devices and online accounts secure. Choose passwords with a mix of upper and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols.
Worried you might forget a password? Consider downloading an app like 1Password, which allows you to save all your usernames and passwords on one secure, data-encrypted app.
Contrary to past advice from online security experts, you don’t however need to change passwords frequently. Bill Burr, a US author of a 2003 guide to computer passwords, says that he regrets advising people to change passwords every 90 days, and that it is unnecessary to do so.
Do the two-step
No, we don’t mean the vintage tea dance! Two-step verification (also known as two-step authentication) is when you are asked to give an additional piece of information after you’ve given your password. This is often the procedure used by banks when you log-in to an online account. They’ll send a text message to your smartphone with a code for you to enter online to access your account. This does mean it takes longer to log-in to your online accounts and services but it’s worth it to know that your data is more secure.
It can be annoying when you’re in the middle of doing something online and you’re interrupted by a prompt to update your device software. But, as tempting as it might be to ignore a security update – don’t! Manufacturers release updates when they discover that there is a vulnerability in their software.
To reduce your risk of being exposed to a virus or malware attack update your software as soon as you can. If your device doesn’t automatically prompt you to update your software, set a monthly reminder in your calendar to check for updates.