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How to better secure your smart homes from cyber attacks

Pulak Satish Kumar
11th Dec 2018
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Imagine every appliance in your home connected and operable using your home’s Wi-Fi network. From video calling systems integrated with your Smart TV to robo-vacuum cleaners doing all the household chores, you can now sit back and bask in the miracle that is technology.

These are some of the incredible features of smart homes that are becoming increasingly popular in our country. Within a smart home, almost all devices - security systems, entertainment systems and communication systems - are interconnected through IoT (Internet of Things) and can be operated simply through your smartphone.

Smart homes are also gaining an increased traction in India, thanks to dual-income households with disposable income to spend on their lifestyle. In fact, the uptake of smart home devices in India has been increasing by 15-18 percent in Tier-I cities annually. Now, several urban homes have transformed themselves into smart homes and the penetration of these technologies is rapidly increasing.

The only drawback of this life-altering technology is that when things go cyber, there is always room for cybercrime. The connected home ecosystem is especially vulnerable to jeopardy as almost all its components operate while online. According to a report by cyber security research centre McAfee Labs, there will be an increase in attacks on IoT connected devices in the coming years, and cases of malware and ransomware will target smart devices including drones and smart homes.

However, the most vulnerable aspect of smart homes is the human factor. As the smart home concept is novel, users are not very well-versed with the risks that connected devices pose. They are unaware of the repercussions of security breaches in smart homes. Hacking, ransomware attacks, privacy breaches through webcams are all common security breaches that can occur within homes.

However, one of the disadvantages of smart homes is that the older generation, who are not very aware of the technology and how it works, will find it difficult. There will always be some loophole in the technology, which may lead to a security threat.

While it is the responsibility of service providers and manufacturers to take the necessary network and hardware security decisions, there are also precautions that users can take to avoid major security breaches at home.

Secure Wi-Fi connectivity and smart devices

Your Wi-Fi connection is the glue that holds your entire smart home together. Every connected device, appliance and tool leads back to the Wi-Fi router. If your router was to be hacked into, the entire smart home system would be at risk. With vulnerable networking devices, especially IoT appliances, reports of hackers taking control or even entering into the home/office networks using an IoT route, are on the continuous rise.

The most important step is to make sure your IoT or smart devices are safe from online hacks. The most vulnerable aspect of smart homes is the human factor. As the smart home concept is novel, users are not well versed with the risks that connected devices pose. They are unaware of the repercussions of security breaches in smart homes.

Hence, before investing in a Wi-Fi router for your smart home, check out the kind of security options that the company provides. Encryption methods are imperative to securing Wi-Fi systems. It is also a good idea to look through the privacy policy of the company to find out if your information will be shared with any third-party. Once a secure router is placed in your smart home, you can move on to choosing smart devices that offer reliable security systems.

Changing defaults and updating software

The most basic method of securing your Wi-Fi router as well as connected devices is to change the default usernames and passwords that are provided during installation. Default passwords are inherently more vulnerable to cyber-attacks whereas strong and unique passwords are safer.

Further, it is important to upgrade your mobile software regularly as most smart devices are connected to mobile networks as well. Ensure that you update your smartphone’s software as soon as you receive the notification as these updates may patch existing holes in the security infrastructure of the phone. This will further protect your home and all its inclusive devices from security breaches.

Software providers are constantly looking for ways to strengthen the security capabilities of networks and devices that make up smart homes systems. By using technologies such as Virtual Private networks, connected homes will become more secure and protected against external threats. These developments that make smart homes safer to live in will be able to boost the uptake of these technologically advanced homes, making India a truly connected country sooner than we imagined.

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)

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