With so many connected devices — smart TV, smartphones, smart thermostats and more — it’s easy to manage your home from the palm of your hand.
But with greater ease also comes a greater risk of being hacked.
That’s because all of these smart home devices are directly connected to your home’s internet connection. If a hacker connects to one device, they may be able to connect to them all. In a nutshell this means securing your home network is more important than ever.
However, don’t panic. Follow these internet security tips to protect yourself and your smart home from hackers.
Secure your home network
The first line of defense in protecting your smart home from hackers is to set up a strong and secure home network. To boost your security:
- Consider buying your own modem and router. Using the equipment provided by your internet service provider (ISP) vs. buying your own modem and router may result in less flexibility to set your network preferences. ISP-provided equipment may have restrictions on which network settings you can and cannot update.
- Change the default admin password. Nearly all modems and routers come with a default administrator password on a sticker on the bottom or side of the device. The first thing you need to do after setting up your equipment is to change the default to a strong password.
- Update your security protocol. Most newer routers offer a few security protocol options, such as WEP, WPA and WPA2. Between the options, always choose WPA2 (Wi-Fi Protected Access II) because it is less susceptible to attacks and offers stronger encryption.
- Keep your equipment firmware up-to-date. You can choose to either download updates manually or turn on automatic updates, but either way, make sure your firmware is up-to-date. This means your equipment has the latest protection directly from the manufacturer.
Safeguard your devices
The next step in protecting your smart home from hackers is to secure your devices. To get started:
- Create unique passwords for everything. Using the same username and password across multiple devices may be convenient, but it’s certainly not secure. What you need to do is create a unique password for all of your smart home and internet-connected devices. Use a password manager with encryption to keep them all stored and secured.
- Set up two-factor authentication. Just like the apps on your phone offer two-factor authentication, many smart home devices do as well. What two-factor authentication does is prevents someone from signing into your device’s account directly. Instead, anyone trying to log in must enter the password, then enter a unique temporary verification code typically sent to your email or phone.
- Take a look at the default settings features. Some of the default settings and features you may not need or use. For instance, remote access (being able to connect to your smart home devices remotely from anywhere) is often enabled by default, but if you don’t need it, turning it off could provide another layer of protection.
- Reboot your devices regularly. Devices (including your modem and router) that allow you to restart them should be restarted once a week or once a month. Restarting the device not only kicks off any unwanted users but also forces it to grab any new security and privacy settings when it reconnects.
- Keep your equipment up-to-date. We mentioned this above, but it applies to your smart home devices as well. Keeping your equipment up to date with the most recent firmware and software updates means you have the latest protections on your devices directly from the manufacturer.
Monitor your internet activity
Online security isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it situation. Protecting your smart home from hackers means that once your security defenses are in place, it’s important to continue to monitor for unusual activity.
- Download your modem or router app. Many new modems and routers have an app that you can download to your smartphone and use to adjust network settings. One other feature of the app is you can monitor how many and what types of devices are connected to your network. This lets you keep an eye out for any unauthorized users on your home network.
- Set up guest Wi-Fi. If friends come over to watch the big game and want to share their thoughts on social media, they may ask for your Wi-Fi password. Instead, setting up a guest Wi-Fi network lets you give them access without giving out your main password. Additionally, you can set limits to what guests have access to on your network.
- Keep an eye on internet speed and connection. If your internet speed seems slower than normal or isn’t connecting, it may be a sign that there are too many (and possibly unauthorized) devices connected. Restart your modem and router, disconnect any of your smart home devices and see if it’s still sluggish. If it is, check with your ISP because they may know of some network-specific issues.
As smart home technology continues to evolve and permeate our homes, it’s more important than ever that you’re taking steps to ensure a safe and secure home network.
Originally published 03/21/17. Last updated 08/19/19.