40 per cent of homes worldwide now have at least one ‘smart’ device connected to the internet. Bringing Internet of Things (IoT) devices such as voice-enabled assistants, IP CCTV cameras, and smart TVs into our homes can make our lives easier, safer and more entertaining, but also create new opportunities for cybercriminals.
Smart homes are designed to afford consumers more agility and ease within their homes, however efforts dedicated to design mean that security features can sometimes take a back seat. Yet, the growth in IoT device connections increases the surface area for attacks within the network. Often, it is the devices that we least expect that pose the most risk, For example, Wi-Fi-connected printers process a significant amount of data as it prints, most are sold with a default password which the wide majority of people never change. Ensuring security in the home includes selecting the right type of Wi-Fi system, to adjusting IoT devices security controls to regularly changing passwords.
As recently as July, it was revealed that an IoT hacker, had built a botnet capable of “enslaving” 18,000 devices in one day. Once a router is exploited, criminals can launch attacks against the device and remotely execute code to build botnets. Most smart devices from your smart coffee to your thermostat could become infected.
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Who is responsible for smart home security?
Although manufacturers have a responsibility to build safety features into devices, rapidly evolving threats make it important for the user to take an initiative in mitigating against risks. Unfortunately, some smart devices are built on a budget and not enough attention is paid to making them secure. For example, some manufacturers implement the same simple password for all devices or using outdated core software.
Everyone plays a key role in the security of their own home. It is important to take steps towards maintaining your safety, by firstly being aware of existing risks and then by ensuring the technology you choose for your home is designed with security in mind. Software updates and regular password changes are also sensible security practices to get the hang of.
The intentions of a cybercriminal can vary widely. Their attacks can often be targeted at individuals, but often they are collecting information en route to mounting a larger attack to target an organisation or a company. Practising good cyber hygiene in the smart home is a critical first step towards avoiding any nasty surprises!
One thing is certain: cybercriminals will always seek new ways to undermine network security and persistence is what makes them successful. So just as it is a homeowner’s responsibility to lock their front door at night or pay attention to who their children might be playing with, it is also the consumer’s responsibility to take care of how smart home networks and devices are managed. A smart way of doing this is through a Wi-Fi management app like D-Link defend, which allows users to centrally manage devices and connections. For example, parents could pause internet usage and create defined schedules for their children.
Why looking after your network is important
The more insecure devices in your home network the higher the risk of home security being compromised. The problem is people do not often think of themselves as a target for cybercriminals. The sharp and widespread increase of IoT devices connected in the home paired with normal people’s limited knowledge of the intricacies network security creates an opportune situation for exploitation.
Smart home security should be taken as seriously as physical home security and surveillance. However, unlike an average burglar, cybercriminals threaten to take more than your TV – all of which could be occurring undetected until it’s too late. Innovations such as smart locks for example, which aim to provide increased security, have in some cases been proven to be easily susceptible to hacks.
However, if you were able to rely on your router to block malicious intruders, you could be giving yourself an advantage. The D-Link EXO router with McAfee protection allows you to block access to known malicious sites, as well as being able to conduct IoT Anomaly and Botnet Detection through the McAfee Global Threat Intelligence database.
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What do you need to consider when assessing connections and devices in your home?
The number of IoT and smart devices in our homes and lives is set to grow, and the need to understand the role of security is becoming more important. Ensuring smart home security practices is necessary to safeguard the modern home, but having the right technology in the first place is vital. We have rounded up the key aspects to consider when thinking about your own home:
Updating passwords and firmware continually renews the protection of devices, but often the most important password to change is the default password. Created by the manufacturers and often the same for all devices produced, default passwords make devices more susceptible to attacks. A common path for botnets to hijack devices is to search for passwords that are hardcoded in devices.
Access to Wi-Fi
The days of liberally dishing out Wi-Fi passwords don’t need to be over, you can hold onto your
Revoking access to Wi-Fi after a guest has left contributes to good Wi-Fi management
Disconnect devices that don’t need to be connected - the ability to centrally manage smart home devices and systems, allows you to be in control of connections.
Before buying a new device for your home, consider doing some research on it beforehand. It is important to understand what kind of features and details are included. Pick devices that have clearly considered quality and security as main features and avoid those that seem too good to be true. Reading up on the devices you already own and how they might be impacting your smart home, is also beneficial.
Getting familiar with security controls on each device and how they can be set to regulate exposure to the Wi-Fi. Consider centrally managed Wi-Fi solutions like D-Link’s EXO router series which includes McAfee protection, and valuable tools that equip parents with more control and ability to protect their kids from inappropriate content, to create a safer more seamless connectivity
Creating the home and world you want to live in
As the vehicle for all internet activity, Wi-Fi is the lifeblood of the smart home and routers are the gateways, making it the ideal place to start protecting the home. Secure routers with the ability to automate monitoring and ultimately securing home networks are the future of smart home security. D-Link’s EXO router, for example, creates one network throughout your entire home and also includes McAfee protection for every device on the home network. This gives parents advanced controls to ensure child safety as well as provide protection on-the-go, which can all be centrally managed in the app. In addition, the router also allows you to block access to known malicious sites, and enable IoT Anomaly and Botnet Detection through the McAfee Global Threat Intelligence database, so no security issue goes unresolved.
Smart homes are a new cybersphere, creating even more links across modern life making us more interconnected than ever before. The convenience and utility smart systems can offer is unprecedented, but they can also be dangerous if not understood and managed properly. Smart homeowners can have both, by investing time into buying the right technology for their home.
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Paul Routledge, Country Manager D-Link (opens in new tab)