How to secure your smart home

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Having more smart devices connected to your home network and the internet makes life more convenient, but it also increases the number of ways you can be hacked. The threats can be great.

For example, a hacked security camera provides a route into your home network, allowing the criminals to directly target more devices in your home. There’s also the risk of a loss of privacy: would you like a hacker to watch what you’re doing via a compromised security camera?

Every device that connects to the internet needs to be secured and managed to prevent hacker attacks. Here are some steps you can take to secure your smart home.

Change default passwords

Smart devices, also known as Internet of Things (IoT) devices, are often standalone full-fledged computers. Once a hacker has compromised a device, it can be used for nefarious purposes. The Mirai malware used standard usernames and passwords to find and infect IoT devices such as surveillance cameras.

Once infected with the Mirai malware, the infected devices could be controlled by the hackers. The infected devices were then often used for distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, generating traffic to bring down targeted websites. You certainly don’t want your home and broadband connection to be a part of such attacks.

To counter this, make sure none of your smart devices are using the default passwords they came with. This is more of an issue with smaller brands that don’t always implement more secure access methods like random default passwords.

Changing passwords should also apply to your router and its WiFi settings: don’t use the default network name and password that your device came with.

Set a secure password

Update firmware

Check your smart devices or their apps for firmware updates. It’s important to keep your devices running the latest version. Not only can new firmware add new features and fix bugs, but these updates often fix security vulnerabilities as well.

Enable two-factor authentication for your accounts

The problem with many smart devices is that they are controlled via apps or a web interface and access is protected by a username and password. This means that hackers don’t have to touch your hardware, but can try to gain access to your accounts and therefore your devices.

Using long and strong passwords that are difficult to guess is a good place to start – a long phrase that you can remember with some numbers and punctuation marks added is good. If possible, also enable two-factor authentication.

Two-factor authentication requires you to enter a secure one-time code in addition to your password to access your account. This can be sent via SMS, email or generated via an app. Two-factor authentication means that even if your password is stolen, hackers still don’t have all the information they need to hack your account.

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Remove old devices from your network

If you have old internet-connected devices that don’t need to be on your network, remove them. For example, if you have a Wi-Fi printer but only print when connected via USB, turn off the wireless settings. Disconnect other devices that you no longer use and turn off network features on devices that don’t need them.

Also consider upgrading old devices that are no longer supported. It’s a financial pain to have to do this, but all products reach the end of their natural supported lifespan.

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Protect your network

If you have a high-end router, such as For example, an Orbi RBK852 mesh system, you’ll often find that there’s one security option you can enable – in this case, it’s Netgear Armor. These subscription services run security software on your router that protects you from malicious attacks and automatically detects suspicious activity. It is worth considering subscribing to these services for peace of mind.

Screenshots of Netgear Orbi RBK752 app settings screens

Use a guest wireless network

Most routers have the option for a wireless guest network. This separate network prevents devices connecting to it from seeing your main network. It’s worth enabling this and connecting your smart devices to this network. If they are compromised, your main network (your phones, computers, etc.) cannot be touched.

Using the guest network may cause some features to stop working. For example, if you put your TV in the guest network, you may not be able to cast content from your phone to it.

It is worth putting devices on a separate network that does not need to communicate with other devices. So smart heating, smart cameras, smart alarms and the like should be separate; Computers, phones, and entertainment devices should be connected to your main network.

If you try this technique and find you’re having trouble with a device when it’s on your guest network, move it back to the main network.

Turn off UPnP

Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) is a technology that allows devices to automatically configure a router. It’s very clever, but an infected device can use UPnP to open a hole in your router’s firewall, allowing more devices to be attacked.

Turn off UPnP to avoid this. You can do this in your router’s settings. Where the UPnP option is located depends on your router, but most have this feature in the advanced section.

Turn off UPnP

Use appropriate security software

Make sure you have full security software running on your computers and phones. This protects your computers from attacks; A compromised computer can be used remotely to gain access to other devices on your network. Using dedicated security software stops attacks whether your computer is on your home network or when you’re on the go.

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