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How to Be Smart About Your Smart Home

As more consumers adopt so-called "smart" technology, we explore some security fundamentals to help you make smart decisions about technology.

Remember that Disney Movie, Smart House?

 While we all love being able to turn on the lights with a voice command, change the thermostat without getting up, check on our dogs from anywhere with live cameras, it makes us think: is this stuff secure?

Connected home tech comes with built-in security and privacy risks.

As our homes get “smarter,” they have become a playground for would-be attackers. Exploits in “smart” connected devices have allowed attackers to remotely access everything from live-feed security cameras, to digital assistants, to drones, and even children’s toys. In fact, some experts are saying that our smart home devices might be more insecure than they are secure. Not good.

But I like my smart home technology. What do I do?

If possible, be a late adopter. As the market for connected home gadgets matures, we expect security to begin to catch up. If you just have to have that smart egg carton right now, and have considered the potential security and privacy tradeoffs, here are a few ways to minimize your risk:

1. Look under the hood and ask questions

How does the device work? If it responds to voice commands, that means the microphone is always on. Do some research to better understand what data is collected and who potentially has access. Are you OK with Nest collecting sensor data from inside your home and sending it to Google?

2. Use strong passwords

And different ones for each device, too. While it might be a pain, it’s the easiest way to protect yourself from getting attacked.

3. Change automatic/factory settings

Ever notice how your smart device shows up on WiFi? That’s because most smart home devices are pre-loaded with factory settings. But it means anyone with a WiFi connection can see the device name, and with a simple online search, the default password. So when you set these things up, change the name and the password to something strong.

4. Update your software and firmware

We know what you’re thinking. “Geez, Steel Root. You say this about everything.” It’s because most software updates contain fixes for newly exposed vulnerabilities. Unfortunately, many so-called “smart” devices don’t even have the ability to update firmware or software. If that’s the case – steer clear!

5. If your home tries to turn itself into your mother, run.

And if you haven’t seen the 1999 Disney film, go watch it.

Have any questions?

Let us know. Whether it’s a smart home or a smart business, we specialize in helping you make smart decisions.