The Internet of Things (IoT) – that growing range of devices and home appliances that rely on a network connection for communication and an enhanced array of features – is projected to comprise more than 20.4 billion devices by 2020. Your smart lights sure do offer an astounding range of lighting choices; your smart home device makes it easier than ever to compile shopping lists and order supplies, play music, or turn on mood lighting; and your smart thermostat lets you control the temperature inside your home from afar with the touch of a button. You can even use web-connected security cameras to capture footage of that package thief that’s been terrorizing the neighborhood. But are these devices really safe?
The somewhat scary truth is that they may not be. IoT devices don’t have the security features afforded to smart phones, laptops, desktop computers, and tablets. Many connected devices aren’t designed with the same kind of security features available in smart phones, computers, and tablets. Most IoT devices possess one or more of a wide range of security flaws that could leave your network, your personal information, and your very home vulnerable. While you don’t have to eschew the fun and convenience of using these devices, you should be aware of their potential inherent security issues, so you can protect yourself.
IoT Could Let Hackers Sneak into Your Network
IoT devices may have a limited range in terms of functionality, but they are basically small computers. Each one needs to connect to the internet via your home network. Unfortunately, each smart device that connects to your network creates another wireless access point that allows hackers to access your network, which may, in turn, afford them access to your smart phone, tablet, laptop, or desktop computer, where your personal information and financial data is stored.
Even if you don’t connect an IoT device to the internet, many of these devices are designed to function as default wireless access points. That’s a problem because their web interfaces may be insecure, or they may have an administrative password that can’t be changed. For example, many home security cameras have unchangeable administrative passwords, and it’s pretty easy for hackers to find that login info online. A simple web search is all it takes for hackers to gain access to your security camera feeds, which can tell them whether or not you’re home, whether a package has just been delivered, or whether or not you wear pants while watching Netflix on the sofa.
Many manufacturers of IoT devices don’t bother pushing the software and firmware updates that could patch security issues with their devices’ web interfaces. Communications between these devices and the cloud could be unencrypted; passwords could be weak; web interfaces could be full of holes. And even if hackers don’t use access to your IoT devices to sneak onto your home network, they could take them over to orchestrate botnet attacks that could block internet access for swathes of the country; take down access to major online services like Netflix or PayPal, create a national security threat; or even wreak havoc with traffic lights, utilities, police services, or more.
You Don’t Need to Ditch the Smart Stuff to Protect Yourself
While all of that sounds pretty scary, you don’t need to forgo nifty connected gadgets in order to protect yourself. As long as you have the right internet security for your home network, you should be able to enjoy the benefits of IoT devices, while minimizing the risks. A comprehensive home internet security solution from a reputable company will allow you to protect multiple devices from malware and phishing attacks, as well as creating a home network firewall that should keep hackers from accessing your vulnerable IoT devices.
For added protection, you may want to consider creating two home wireless networks – one for your laptop, smart phones, tablets, and other devices that contain personal and financial information, and a second for your IoT devices. This way, your connected devices will have the internet access they need, without putting your personal information at risk. If hackers break into one or more of your IoT devices, they still won’t have access to your financial accounts or personal information.
The internet, and the many devices that connect to it, can make our lives easier and more fun. But they can also pose risks. Learn how to protect yourself, so you can protect your home and family, without sacrificing the benefits of the Internet of Things.