The Internet of Things, or IoT devices are great! Not only do they provide automated, seamless assistance to normal, everyday life; they also make life simpler. Can’t remember if you locked the door before leaving? Open up the app for your Smart Door Lock and engage the lock. Want to make sure the house is the perfect temperature when you arrive? Smart thermostats like Nest, Ecobee, or HoneyWell can give you the ability to turn on the heat or AC before you even walk through the door; and who doesn’t like the sound of being able to make sure dinner is cooking and will be ready for when you get home from work? There’s a Smart Crockpot for that! Yes, seriously! Even a large majority of the TV’s sold in stores are Wi-Fi enabled.
As convenient and simple as these types of devices can make our everyday lives, they can also be something of a double edged sword, as they can come at a price that’s significantly higher than what the device itself actually costs. As with many of the electronic and internet enabled devices that we use in everyday life, IoT devices require a certain level of security, and ignoring this aspect when it comes to your IoT devices can do much more harm than good.
How IoT devices Can Make Us More Vulnerable
As with any device that connects to a network, hackers can use IoT devices to gain access and even a long standing foothold into your network, and this can happen from even the most unexpected of devices. Unfortunately, many of us are more concerned with getting these cool, new devices, getting them configured, and setup on the network so that we can start using them immediately; and as a result put the idea of securing the devices on the back burner.
So what exactly can be done to secure these IoT devices? Actually, there is quite a bit that can be done!
Use Your Own Network, Avoid Public Wi-Fi
It should go without saying that if you’re planning on trying out that new Wi-Fi enabled toaster, don’t connect it to a public Wi-Fi network. In the rare, off chance that you absolutely have to connect the device to a public network, use a Virtual Private Network (VPN).
Setup and Use a Guest Network
Guest networks are simple to set up and configure and provide an extra layer of security to your network. This is especially true in the case when you have visitors who want to use your Wi-Fi, either at home or in the office. The guest network can provide them with access to the network and of course to the internet, but it secludes them from entering into the main network so they can’t actually access any of the other devices or system connected to the main network.
It’s recommended to also use a guest network for your IoT devices, such that in the off chance that one of the devices is indeed compromised, then the threat actor (hacker) will be trapped within that guest network and unable to access your personal devices on the main network.
Always Reconfigure Every IoT Device
Whether you receive it as a gift or purchase it as soon as it hits the shelves, every IoT device that you plan to connect to your network needs to be reconfigured during setup. This doesn’t mean you have to take the device apart to “hack it”, all this simply means is setting up a strong, complex, and secure password for the device, as well as the email or federated login account you’re using to set up the device.
Use Strong Passwords
Just as we mentioned above, make it a habit of using strong, complex passwords for all the devices that you connect to your network and the accounts that you may end up creating for these devices. People often have a tendency of reusing the same password for many of their devices and accounts, what is even worse is the fact that most of these passwords are simple, and can either be easily guessed, or cracked by hackers.
Also make a habit of using Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) if the account or device allows it.
Always Know What Is Connected to Your Network.
It should go without saying that you should always be cognizant or aware of what devices are connected to your network. Many of today’s wireless network routers come with easy to access and user friendly administrative interfaces that can be used to find out exactly what devices are connected to your network. However there are some routers that are setup and configured using an app, and these apps also allow the same type of administrative check.
Ensure Devices are Updated
When initially setting up a new IoT device, always make sure to check and see if it has any current software/firmware updates that can be applied. Also, another even more helpful feature to have is auto-updates, so if the device has this capability, enable it. Be sure to make a habit of checking to see if the device needs updating.
IoT devices and the technology that drives them have a seemingly unlimited potential to assist us in our daily lives, but do not disregard the risks. You can purchase the most highly rated, most expensive IoT device on the market that was created by the top companies in that field, but at the end of the day, the security of IoT devices and that of your network is up to your and the amount of time and level of protection that you are willing to take.