Would you leave your home for vacation with the doors unlocked and a window open? Probably not. But did you know you may be leaving your home network wide open to internet hackers without knowing it?
Today, there are an estimated 30 billion smart-home devices in use. Each of them is connected to a home network, and 70 percent of the most popular IoT devices are not secure. A hack into a smart TV, thermostat or refrigerator can expose your entire network. In recent years, as smart devices have grown in popularity, hackers have compromised everything from wireless baby video monitors to critical medical devices.
Even more concerning, a hacker with the knowledge and opportunity could compromise the appliances themselves and cause them to malfunction, potentially causing your freezer to defrost or an oven to turn on without your knowledge.
There are ways to get the benefits of a smart home without the hassles—and worse—that hackers can bring to bear. Here are three things to do to protect your network and your family.
Make sure your firmware is up to date.
Your router’s job description includes more than just distributing your home internet signal. It’s also your first line of defense against intruders to your home network and the devices connected to it. But your router is only as good as its firmware. Most manufacturers keep up with bugs, patch security holes and make other improvements through semi-regular firmware updates that keep your network healthy.
So how can you know if your devices are up to date? There are a few ways. Some devices, such as those made by Nest, will check for updates automatically when connected to WiFi and download new versions when they become available. An easy way to check for updates manually is to type your router’s IP address (usually located on the back of your router) into a web browser and log in, then look for a firmware, connectivity or update section. You may also be able to enable automatic updates once you log in. If you’re unsure of how your router handles updates, check the manufacturer’s website.
Mind your passwords. Really.
From the first time you ever logged onto a computer, you were probably prompted to create a password for something—if not your profile, then for an email address. You’ve had the mantra drilled into your head so many times it should be second nature: Don’t use the same password for everything, and don’t make it easy to figure out. Still, the most common passwords people use are easily hackable. Just last year, CNN reported the most commonly hacked passwords were 1234567 (23 million accounts had that one), qwerty, abc123 and so on.
Here’s one you might not realize, though. Did you bother to change the password that came printed on the back of your router? Would you believe that there are a finite number of passwords manufacturers use over and over? It’s true. You should always change your router password from the default factory password. While you’re at it, change the name of your router, too. That will make it harder for hackers to match your router model to a list of commonly used default passwords.
Take advantage of AI-enabled devices.
Artificial intelligence can help protect your network from hackers. Our friends at Plume developed AI to identify all devices connected to a home network, detect anomalies in device behavior, and immediately quarantine devices that have been compromised in order to prevent a breach from spreading to other devices connected to the home network.
Plus, as the system learns patterns of normal device behavior on your network, it will spot abnormalities in real time and immediately act to protect users and devices. Bonus: If you have C Spire Smart WiFi, you already have this protection.