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Hacked at Home: Why You Should Protect Your Smart IoT Devices

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    Written by Richard Kahn
    on March 25, 2019

    Ad fraud protection for your refrigerator? It might not be as crazy as it sounds. But hackers don’t want access to your fridge; they want access to your home network. And the easiest way to get in is through an unsecured home device. 

    In this ever-growing corner of cyberspace, break-ins aren’t so obvious. You might not come home to a picked lock or a broken window, but rather stolen information skimmed from a smart device.

    The Dark Side of IoT 

    IoT stands for the Internet of Things, which covers all devices connected to the internet. Many of these devices, like smart televisions, home security cameras, and wireless baby monitors are not secure enough to fend off hackers. In fact, many of these gadgets are shockingly easy to hack into. And when not properly protected, these devices can be very dangerous.

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    When you think about devices that are vulnerable to hacking, your first thought probably isn’t a home appliance. But devices like connected refrigerators and ovens to robotic vacuums and smart TVs, open the doors to the hackers. And you don’t have to be a sophisticated hacker to crack a factory password or unsecured Wi-Fi.   

    Since IoT household devices are so new, it’s hard to predict how dangerous they will become. Most smart household devices don’t carry a security rating, making it difficult to tell how secure they really are. All of these gadgets constantly collect and store your data, and the manufacturers own that data. This data is then being stored in “the cloud” which hackers can swiftly gain access to.

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     ron swanson

    Imagine this: You wake up one Saturday morning to the smell of fresh coffee. What a delicious surprise! The warm sun seeps through your blinds as you slip on your fuzzy slippers and head to the kitchen. Then reality kicks in: you live alone. Uh oh.  

    Through a glitch in many Wi-Fi enabled household devices, hackers can slip into your network and manipulate your devices. An attack could be as minor as brewing you a pot of coffee, or as crippling as a data breach.

    The Connectivity Factor

    What goes up must come down. And if it’s connected to the internet, it’s vulnerable.  

    With home devices, the focus is on the product itself, not the quality of its security. When we add connectivity to our household appliances and devices, we’re essentially opening up a back door into our network.

    Sure, you know your laptop could be vulnerable if you don’t take the necessary steps to set up a security system or virus detector. But did you ever stop to think about how vulnerable your home appliances actually are?  

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    A smart toothbrush that tracks your brushing habits and helps you optimize your routine sounds pretty cool, right? You connect the Sonicare to a free app on your mobile device that shows you where you’re brushing too little or if you’re brushing too hard.

    You can even outsmart cavities by setting personal brushing goals and opting in to personalized coaching, tips, and alerts. The catch: this toothbrush wants to know where you are at all times (cue evil laugh). 
    SONICARE

    Anything connected to your network puts you at a security risk. Smart home devices are connected to the internet all the time without any supervision, so safeguarding them (and reading the fine print) is a must. 

    Protecting Your IoT Devices 

    Unprotected devices can create some scary scenarios. There have been real-life reports of baby monitors being hacked, along with entire smart homes. Here are a few precautions you can take to better protect IoT devices.

    Read the fine print. It’s a good rule of thumb to always read the fine print in device manuals to find out what you’re really getting yourself into. This might include information about security, software updates, and routine care.

    Check the security level on your device. In your Wi-Fi settings, select WPA2 (and make sure to avoid WPS).

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    Keep your devices updated. When available, make sure you install all updates, as they often patch security vulnerabilities. 

    Never use the same password twice. We’re all guilty of using the same password roster for multiple logins. But it’s best to use strong, unique passwords for each of your accounts.   

    In such fast growing space, we can’t begin to predict what could happen within this new territory of connected household appliances. As long as we continue to connect our devices to the internet, vulnerability exists. Keep yourself protected and take extra caution to make sure all of your devices (even your coffee makers) are safe.

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