Whether we’re shopping online or controlling a specific component of our smart home system, technology has made our lives more convenient and connected. Unfortunately, this also increases our risk of being targeted by cyber criminals. According to Forbes, that there’s a wealth of data that can be stolen from you by hackers, which include IP addresses, precise geolocation, and recordings from smart cameras. Hackers can then use these to lock users out of accounts and take over their resources or blackmail people. In the worst case scenarios, cyber criminals can impersonate you and commit crimes in your name.
To prevent yourself from experiencing these, you should be aware of what technologies at home can be hacked. Below are some examples:
WiFi is the on the top list of hackers in order to gain access to your smart home appliances. This is because it provides all the network connectivity which enables these devices to talk to each other and to function. If your WiFi router is hacked, you are done and your secure home fortress will crumble at once. Therefore, the most important device in your home that you must be protecting from hackers, is your WiFi router. This device is the gateway to all your home smart appliances and if it is hacked, the entire ecosystem of your home smart appliances will be compromised. You must secure your home WiFi router with strongest password as explained in STEP 1 below. Also you need to change the user name of your WiFi router to something other than the default “admin”.
Smart TVs are certainly convenient, being able to access a large number of channels and apps for TV programs, movies, and music. However, hackers can also use smart TVs to spy on you and your family. They have integrated browsers, which can be a way for online-spread malware to infect them. Even when they appear to be turned off, hackers can still turn the TV’s camera and microphone on to cyberstalk you. They can also steal payment information from the app store, use the TV to access other devices in the same network, and leech off of accounts such as Netflix.
Your home security cameras can compromise your security. As of 2020, at least 100,000 indoor security cameras have a high risk of being hacked in the UK. Hackers can access your camera’s video stream to spy on your home, or even talk to people in your home if the camera has a microphone. They can also use the camera as an access point in order to control other devices in the same network. If your camera is part of a system, it only takes one vulnerable camera to allow a hacker to take control of the whole thing. This can be a serious threat to your safety as they will be able to plan a physical break-in.
Some of the unlikely devices that can be hacked are robot vacuums. They’re certainly useful with their room-mapping capabilities that ensures they can clean your floors while you’re busy with other tasks. However, a study by ScienceDaily warns that hackers can use them to remotely record sounds, such as music and conversations. Robot vacuums use light detection and ranging (lidar) technology to help navigate the environment — and hackers can manipulate this technology to collect sound even though vacuums don’t have a microphone. From these sounds, a hacker can figure out a person’s home, such as how many people are home and what they do.
Smart doorbells have become very common and all of them connect to you WiFi router. Therefore, you need to make sure you change the default PIN or password and change the factory name of the device to something else. Do not use they default settings. If a smart doorbell is breached, it can put your home safety at risk and open your secure home to burglars and jeopardise your physical security as well.
Smart speakers pose a unique security risk in the sense that if they are hacked, all your private conversations will be monitored and heard and whatever you say will most probably be recorded by hackers. The key security measure is to ensure that the gateway to your digital smart devices, which is your WiFi router, is secured and a strong password is set.
STEP 1: Make sure you PIN protect all your home appliances. Ideally, you should protect your device with 6 PINs instead of 4 where possible. If you access your home appliances from your mobile phone app or laptop, make sure you set a strong password which exceed 11 characters with a mixture of uppercase, lowercase, numbers and special characters. Avoid using your pets name, family member date of birth or any password which contact any piece of personal information. To make your password memorable, it is suggested you choose a phrase from your favourite actor in a movie and combine that with your favourite author’s name or name of the book you have recently read. Something like G@m30fThr0n3$R0n@ldR3g@n. Obviously, do not reveal this to anyone or write it anywhere. Every few months, change your password using the same patterns and guidelines.
STEP 2: Never ever believe an email or text message you have received from the “manufacturer” of the smart appliance that your device has been compromised and you should click a link to reconfirm your credentials. Do NOT click on any link in an email, text message or WhatsApp message even if it seems to be from a trusted friend! Before taking any action, verify with the manufacturer or the friend by phone or a different method of communications to ensure that the email or the message was indeed sent by them. Also hover you mouse on the link without clicking on it to reveal the true URL/Domain name of the link to see what it is. You should never however, click on the link. Links can be baits to RATs (remote admin tools used by hackers) who will use them to take control of your household smart appliances.
STEP 3: Always apply all the latest legitimate updates to the devices firmware and admin software of the device. It is our responsibility to ensure the security and safe upkeep of our own home technology and smart gadgets. A simple thing to do is to install security software updates as soon as they’re released, since these updates fix errors and patch vulnerabilities that could be exploited by hackers.
STEP 4: You must also create a secure Wi-Fi network by changing your network’s name and password to something unique and only known to you and your family and hide it from public display. Manage your individual devices as well by setting up an account with different passwords for each one — this is so that if one of the devices is hacked, it won’t compromise the others. Don’t forget the password creation policy in STEP 1.
STEP 5: In the event that your home technology does get hacked, some immediate actions you can take, include hard reset or reboot the devices and change your passwords. However, these won’t guarantee that your hacker is off your system or device already. So to be sure that you get your home technology back, contact a professional.
Technology has surely made our lives more convenient. However, it’s important to be aware of which devices at home can be hacked and what can be done to prevent it from happening.
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Written by Jensen Voon