Have you heard of the Internet of Things (sometimes referred to as IoT)?
Just the other day, I was enjoying my first sips of coffee from the couch — laptop on lap, smartphone beside me — watching the Today Show as I do most mornings when they presented a segment on ransom hacking. Wait, what???
Ransom hacking? Yes, hackers want to hold your data for ransom. And there I sat with my devices in “my hands” and realizing that the Internet of Things I have could be compromised by hackers.
In a shadowy region of the Internet known as the dark web, “ransomware” that enables hackers to invade your computer and hold your data for ransom is marketed openly. Anyone can gain access to it.
Following are 5 smart things you can do right now to safeguard your home and keep your own connected devices safe from hackers.
It should also be a big red flag for anyone who uses connected devices — such as digital video recorders, 2-way programmable thermostats, and home security systems.
So… what is this Internet of Things?
What Exactly Is The Internet Of Things?
Simply put, it is the concept of basically connecting any device with an ON and OFF switch to the Internet (and/or to each other).
This includes everything from cellphones, coffee makers, washing machines, headphones, lamps, wearable devices, and almost anything else you can think of!
Have you got a Fitbit or some other fitness tracker? Do you have an Amazon Echo that uses the Alexa voice service? Like to play games on an Xbox, Wii, or Playstation game console? Have a baby monitor to keep a close eye on your children? Those are all examples of Internet of Things devices that you might already be familiar with.
If you’re anything like me, then you might need an example (or 5) to understand how the technology “talks” to each other.
Here’s how the Internet of Things is changing the way we do things:
- Trying a new restaurant?… Your car could have access to your calendar and already know the best route to take.
- Stuck in traffic?… Your car might send a text to the other party notifying them that you will be late.
- Waking up in the morning?… Your alarm clock could wake up you at 6 a.m. and then notify your coffee maker to start brewing coffee for you.
- Ordering supplies?… Your office equipment can tell when it’s running low on supplies (like printer ink) and automatically re-order more.
- Tracking your health?… The wearable device you use in the workplace could tell you when and where you were most active & productive and share that information with other devices that you used while working.
So what can you do to keep the Internet of Things safe around you?
#1 – Read Device Manuals
In the past, I’ve been so quick to trash the excess packaging that comes with most new devices. Unfortunately for me, that has usually included tossing the device manual as well.
You should read the manuals and hold onto them for future reference.
That way, you can use them to check the Specifications section and look for information on embedded passwords. (See why that’s important in #2 below.)
Also, by carefully reading the user manual and administrative instructions included with the IoT device, you’ll find yourself prepared to understand which configuration details require pre-planning.
Here’s why it’s important to read owner’s manuals on your IoT devices.
#2 – Change Default Passwords
Change the default password before using any new device. It can take a bit of sleuthing to find information on embedded passwords, but it’s time well spent when your security is at stake!
The default usernames and passwords for popular models of wireless network gear are well-known to hackers and often posted on the Internet. If the default password isn’t changed, any attacker (or just curious individual) who gets within signal range of the router can log into it. Once inside, they can change the password to whatever they choose and shut down the router — effectively hijacking the entire system. Source
You might think that it hardly matters whether you choose a good password or not — because hackers are often bypassing the front door and attacking large servers via security vulnerabilities and the “dark web.”
Although this is true, it’s still a really good idea to choose good passwords for all your devices. Keep track of your passwords offline for safekeeping.
Here are some excellent ways to create good passwords.
#3 – Keep An Eye On Tech News
It’s true that most companies try to alert their users to technology breaches as soon as possible. But even they sometimes don’t find out about them until months or years after the fact.
For your own safety, you should stay on top of the latest technology news and look for reports of data breaches and other problems.
Also, routinely check the websites of the Internet of Things device manufacturers for security patches and upgrades.
Here’s information about the newsworthy Yahoo breach.
#4 – Use Caution With Apps
Security risks will always be around with apps, but you can take some precautions that will lower your risk exposure.
One of the most important things you can do is keep your apps and operating systems current with the latest upgrades.
Malicious apps take advantage of older versions of browsers or operating systems. When there is a flaw found the app releases an update right away. If you don’t update your phone or other Internet of Things devices you will be vulnerable. Source
In addition, some of the newest anti-virus software programs will check for new virus definitions every time you go online — which is the safest option. That means it will only download the virus definitions that it doesn’t already have — so you should only need to download a small amount, which shouldn’t interfere with your Internet access at all.
Here are 10 ways to avoid malware viruses.
#5 – Secure Your Wireless Network
Take the time to secure your wireless network with a strong password and the latest security patches.
To see if an outsider has been using your wireless home network, do this:
- Enter your router’s IP address in a computer browser’s address bar.
- Open the DHCP Client Table. (It’s under Status > Local Network > DHCP Server for Linksys routers.)
- You will then see a list of all devices connected to your wireless network including those of strangers.
Your home Wi-Fi network is the heart of your personal Internet of Things, so make sure it is as secure as possible. To keep all of your data safe, you can never forget how important the Internet of Things security is.
Here are 12 ways to secure your Wi-Fi network.
As we move forward into the future, more and more of our devices will be connected to the Internet.
From security cameras keeping a watchful eye on our front doors to the gaming consoles keeping us entertained in the living room — these devices serve us in many different ways.
If you want to enjoy the convenience and safety of these devices without the risks, you need to pay attention and do what you can to secure all of your IoT devices from hackers.
More About The Internet Of Things & Security
In addition to the links I’ve included above, here’s some other helpful information about the Internet of Things & security measures that will keep you safe:
- 8 Ways The Internet of Things Will Change Our Lives
- Internet Of Things Security & Privacy Issues
- Top 10 Tech News Websites For Up-To-Date Info
- More About The Dark Web & How To Stay Safe
- Books About Internet Of Things Security
- Security Concerns With IoT Devices