Internet of Things (IoT) devices and gadgets found their way into mainstream consumer electronics about a decade ago. Smart devices all around us make our lives easier, and their convenience virtually has no upper limit.
However, IoT devices (if not handled properly) pose a security risk as well. Each and every poorly maintained IoT device is a potential point of entrance for all sorts of malware.
Fear not – there are things you can do right now to minimize that risk. Let’s talk about ways in which you can make your IoT devices more secure!
1. Set up your router properly
This goes without saying, yet people rarely do it – take a moment and set up your router. Most internet routers nowadays come with the basic setup, leaving your network open to all sorts of security threats. By extension, your IoT devices may be at risk as well.
So, to lower the security risks on your home network, do the following:
- Use strong encryption methods for Wi-Fi access (WPA)
- Use a strong password (a password generator tool like this one can help)
- Create a guest network for people coming in and out
- Update router firmware whenever possible
2. Update firmware/software regularly
Ever since IoT malware became a real threat, gadget manufacturers have started raising awareness on firmware updates. Most devices have a single layer of protection. This layer is patched and updated through those firmware updates. So, try not to be bothered by your IoT device being offline for ten or so minutes it needs to update.
Wherever possible, enable automatic updates. Or, if that’s not an option, visit the manufacturer’s website and check for updates yourself.
3. Get 2FA wherever possible
It’s become common to set up Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) for our online accounts, like email and social media. This needs to become a standard thing for IoT devices as well.
A 2FA system will add an excellent additional layer of protection to your IoT devices. It will also keep your devices from connecting to other networks easily. (Just like people can’t connect to your wireless headphones).
Some IoT device manufacturers even introduced biometrics as an extra security layer. If 2FA and biometrics are on the table, there’s no reason not to use them.
4. Avoid public Wi-Fi
Public Wi-Fi network scams are still happening, despite the hard effort to fight them. Coffee shops, shopping malls, and public transportation are the most lucrative spaces for hackers and scammers. So, if you can, avoid connecting your IoT devices (as well as your smartphone) to public Wi-Fi.
No matter how innocent the connection may seem, there are multiple risks of connecting to these spots. Even if there is no malware or scam hiding there, the thought of all those unknown devices connected to Free Bus Stop Wi-Fi is a risk on its own.
The easiest way to avoid all this is to avoid connecting to public Wi-Fi. Even if you go to the same coffee shop every day, it’s still risky business for your IoT devices.
5. When not in use – Disconnect
This tip is more of a habit you need to develop. It’s simple – whenever you’re done using your smart device, turn it off. Of course, this doesn’t go for gadgets like smartwatches, but that smart bathroom scale doesn’t need to stay active and connected throughout the whole day.
Some IoT devices will actively scan to make new connections, and that poses a security risk. If you’re unsure whether or not the device in question is looking to make a connection without your knowledge – do a scan with a friend’s phone and see what’s available. Prepare for a surprise.
6. Do a proper first install and avoid UPnP
When you introduce a new IoT device to your network, take some time to properly install it. Try not to skip anything since there might be useful security information in the setup process as well. It may be tedious, but you’ll know what to expect from the newly-introduced device.
Now, some devices come with a simplified setup process. The Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) system has made the setup process less cumbersome at the cost of security. Thankfully, most UPnP-able devices and gadgets allow you to turn this feature off.
The risk behind UPnP lies in the very same convenience it offers. This feature enables devices to connect and communicate among themselves quickly. Unfortunately, this translates to anyone being able to connect to the same device, no questions asked.
Better Safe Than Sorry
We have yet to see where this IoT trend is going to take us. More and more devices are coming with Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connectivity features – from simple rice cookers and smart washing machines to centralized computers like Alexa. We even wear IoT devices nowadays.
That is why we must take some time to familiarize ourselves with IoT security and our home networks in general.
Now go and check for updates on your router!