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Is A Hacker Hiding Within Your Smart Home Devices?

By: Bill Walter on August 01, 2019

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Is A Hacker Hiding Within Your Smart Home Devices?

home cyber security

As businesses put more funds into cyber security at the office, hackers have redirected their efforts to easier targets: you, your family and your home.  

Cyber threats don’t look the same way they used to. The rule of thumb used to be installing virus protection on your computer, or getting a virus-protected Mac to ward off cyber threats. If you think your firewall will protect you, or that your Mac can’t get a virus, here’s the scary truth: you could already be compromised 

Here’s the rub when it comes to cyber threats at home and what you need to do to prevent you and your family from becoming a target.

The Threat At Home

You might be savvy enough to avoid clear phishing scams at home. While you’re not running to wire transfer money to an African prince, it doesn’t mean you’re not feeding valuable information to a hacker.

A cyber threat at home will act much different than a threat at the office. At the office, you can usually expect a pop up to take over your screen with a ransomware message, like this video shows, or at least some odd computer behavior, like an inverted screen. Hackers who target your home are a different breed.

The home cyber intruder is crafty. They’ll quietly sneak into one home device, then find ways to access more devices and learn about you and your family before making a move. Once they study your personal details and habits, they’ll start creating accounts with your kids’ names, steal money from you, or sell that information on the dark web.

Where Hackers Are Sneaking In

You might not know this, but a hacker doesn’t have to get access to your computer to steal your information. They can use any device connected to your internet, including your smartphone, your trusty voice assistant (like Alexa and HomePod), your home security system, or even your smart appliances. That’s right. The robot vacuum you thought you needed might end up being your downfall.

If a hacker gets into your security system, they’ll listen to your conversations and watch your every move until they learn everything they need to know about you. Have you heard of the hacker who breached a couple’s baby monitor and talked to their child every night over the monitor? Creepy! If that doesn’t give you nightmares, we don’t know what will.

You might be thinking, “I’m not worried. I don’t have a security system with cameras in my house.” We hate to tell you this, but you aren’t completely out of the woods.

Find out if you’re leaving you and your family open to a cyber intrusion with  this quick quiz…

Smart thermostats have become very popular, and unfortunately, they’re a major target for hackers. One popular smart thermostat was recently proved to be easily breached. A hacker could start with the thermostat and make their way through the entire network to gather more information about the homeowner and their family.

You may think that a thermostat is just that: a simple device to measure temperature and control your air conditioning. It’s easy to forget that it’s a fully-functional, server-level operating system with 2 GB of memory. That’s enough power to use against you and your family. At the least, a hacker can watch your usage to learn when you’re not home and rob you while you’re away.  

Your home isn’t the only target for this kind of hacker. Many of us have the ability to work from home, which is exactly what the hackers are hoping for. They will break in to your home devices, watch for you to connect to your remote work portal, then use your credentials to steal your company’s confidential information. Today’s cyber security threats rely on you to circumvent an organization’s security protections.

What You Can Be Doing To Secure Your Home Devices

Now that you’re terrified that the fictional world of Black Mirror is a reality, here are a few cyber security tips you can start using to help you sleep at night.

1. Start with a good firewall.

Using a firewall that your internet provider gave you might be the weakest link in your security chain. While it’s better than nothing, it’s critical that you keep up on every update so hackers don’t have an easy door to walk through if they’re attempting to break into your home devices. 

We’d like to emphasize that this is the starting point of a good cyber security solution. If you’re relying solely on your firewall to protect you, you might already be hacked (schedule a security sweep to check). 

2. Use the highest level of wireless encryption available. 

You might be cyber security savvy, but your guests might not be. If your guests like to use your wireless internet, you should set up a wireless network for your devices and a separate one for guests. Then, use wireless isolation for each device on your Wi-Fi. This way, if a hacker gains access to one device, they can’t immediately move on to all the others.

3. Update your home devices.

We don’t always keep our home equipment up to date. Sure, we can click “update now” when a push notification prompts us to, but sometimes it’s just easier to keep clicking “ignore for 30 days” instead.

80% of breaches at homes and businesses have been due to unpatched and outdated equipment. Even though it’s easy to click “ignore” on those pesky notifications, it’s important to update them as soon as they’re released to avoid getting hacked.

This might be sad news to you, but after a certain point, even updates and firewalls are not going to protect you. If your home computer is still running Windows 95, we’re sorry to say, there’s no hope for you.

4. Be aware of the latest cyber security news and threats.

Staying on top of the latest cyber security news will help you ward off cyber criminals. Updated password standards, for example, will help you learn how to create a password Indiana Jones wouldn’t be able to crack. New technologies, such as two-factor authentication, will alert you if someone is attempting to access your account without your knowledge. Staying in tune with cyber security news will help you stay ahead of cyber threats.

The Bottom Line 

We all love convenience. Some of us will give up our privacy in order to streamline our lives. But, this isn’t a debate on privacy or giving up convenience. This is a wakeup call to make sure you aren’t leaving your door open to trouble. 

IoT manufacturers have gotten smarter about securing their devices. They don’t use static, easily-guessed passwords and are more cognizant about leaving open gateways for cyber threats to get through. However, we need to be aware of the threats in our home so we can properly protect our information from getting in the wrong hands.

Need Help? 

If you’re concerned about the cyber security threats lurking on your home devices, schedule a quick free Secure@Home security sweep here 

take this free quiz to find out what's lurking on your home computer

About Bill Walter

Bill, our lead networking guru, loves showing clients how technology can be worked into their existing processes to improve efficiency. His expertise includes high level planning for internal and external networks, research and selection of hardware and software products, and hands-on installation and configuration of networks. Normally a pretty easygoing guy, Bill thinks there should be a law against wearing a Bluetooth headset when it’s not in use.