How To Proof Your Home Against Hackers

Child watching television in a lounge filled with furniture.In many senses the latest advances in wireless technology can go a long way to making your home safer. From CCTV to baby monitors, from smart doorbells to fire, smoke and O2 detectors, there are a plethora of different devices which make home security far easier and more practical than ever before.

Who Watches The Watchman?

The upside of accessibility is that you can attach any number of Internet of Things (IoT) devices to your home hub and control them all from the comfort of your sofa, or from anywhere else in the world for that matter, so long as you have an internet connection. The downside is that, unless you follow a few basic security protocols, so can anybody else with a will, a little know how, and a laptop.

As the number of devices which are online via the IoT, so does the number of potential breeches in security which could be abused by a hacker.

As your home network grows you may find that your wifi router can’t keep up with the volume of data which is being processed, and you want to buy a new one. That’s good in at least two ways. Old WiFi routers weren’t built to ward off determined hackers. All the old security was concerned with was keeping people out and preventing them from piggybacking your bandwidth. New routers are far more secure, and designed to keep out hackers who would want to get into your network for several reasons. As with so many things, the more you spend, the better the features and benefits. A top end router doesn’t only deliver a better signal and speed, it also offers better security protocols.

The first thing you should do when you’re installing any new equipment or IoT device, you need to create a long, complex password for each item. And don’t write them down, especially don’t create a document on your computer with them in. If anybody gets their hands on your computer, they get access to all the devices you can’t remember the passwords for. As well as being long and complex, you should also update your passwords regularly, especially after you’ve shared your WiFi network with guests and visitors. More than half a million phones are stolen every year, and if one has access to your router, they essentially have the keys not only to your door, but your bank account, emails, and every other part of your life which lives online.

If In Doubt, Don’t

Phones aren’t the only devices which can access vulnerabilities in your security. We all know by now that clicking popups is a great way to introduce malware and spywear onto your computer, but IoT devices are a really easy gateway too. If you buy from a cheap brand that you’ve never heard of before, there’s a good chance that it won’t have any, or very poor at best security protocols. And as these IoT devices proliferate the market, it makes smart home security all the more problematic. If you buy an IoT device which you don’t really need to connect, then don’t. The bother of connecting, and protecting a device which you’re not even going to use as a connected device is pointless. Since they don’t have screens security is fiddly to update, they’re easily overlooked when overhauling security and adding more new devices. However, each device, even a smart light bulb, if not password protected, is an open door to your security.

No matter how well secured your network is, always assume you’re vulnerable. Imagine someone had access to your computer. If they had access to that, they could listen and watch while you called your bank or paid for something over the phone, so it’s not just online data which is vulnerable when online security is breached.

How Far Can Hackers Get With Just A Tiny Piece Of Information?

A recent experiment found that a hack which is available to read and learn online, it was possible to play loud music through a baby monitor, take over environmental controls and operate cameras. This means being able to turn off CCTV cameras and prevent them sending alerts to you, or the police. The number of things which a competent hacker can gain access to is concerning. Via a washing machine or your fridge, it’s possible to take control not only of physical devices in your home, but the data they manage too. Once someone can see what you’re doing online they can access credit card details by recording purchasing activity, your visual and audio devices so they can begin to observe your habits and schedule, meaning they know when you’re home or out for long periods. They don’t need to worry about breaking in if they have your entry way and intercom devices, and they can also read all your mail and use social authentication to steal your online identity.

It’s not only your own assets which are vulnerable. Hackers enlist malware infected IoT devices to deploy DDoS attacks on websites and services. DDoS means ‘distributed denial of service’ where thousands of different devices all try to access and send data to a particular site at the same time, causing it to crash. You might not care particularly if someone else’s website gets crashed by bots, but it’s data you’re paying for that’s being sent for hours, costing you money and slowing down or even locking you out of your own WiFi. You may not see an improvement until the attack is over, or you’ve stopped, secured, and reinstalled all the devices on your home network.

So while being fully connected to the IoT makes life easier and more efficient, making it possible to control many electronic devices without jumping up and down to turn things on and off. In addition, this is a great bonus for people with limiting disabilities and health issues, making every day tasks just that little bit easier, it also necessitates a greater appreciation of home security. However, that convenience comes at a cost. And that price is simply ensuring that you’ve done all you can to prevent unwanted access to your WiFi network.

Keep Your Data Securely To Yourself

  • As soon as you plug in any IoT device, change the password and username
  • Use long, complicated passwords which include numbers and special characters
  • Use different passwords for each device
  • Only connect devices which you can see as benefiting from being on line
  • Change your passwords regularly, especially if you’ve let a visitor to your home access your broadband
  • Avoid leaving product reviews, posting pictures, or mentioning which make and model IoT devices you own
  • Keep up to date with security, malware and antivirus software, and news concerning online security and data breeches
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