With the proliferation of Internet of Things (IoT) devices in homes and businesses, security has become a major concern. Connected devices like smart home assistants, security cameras, and routers contain sensitive data and access. Hackers are increasingly targeting these insecure devices to breach networks and steal data. Thankfully, there are steps all users can take to enhance the security of their connected devices.
Use Strong Passwords
One of the easiest ways to secure your connected devices is by using strong passwords. Many users make the mistake of using simple or default passwords like “123456” or “password” that are easy for hackers to guess. When setting up a new IoT device, always change the default password to one that is at least 12 characters long, uses uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. Using a unique password for each device instead of reusing passwords provides an extra layer of protection as well. Enable two-factor authentication when available too.
Update Firmware and Software
Device manufacturers regularly release firmware and software updates to patch security vulnerabilities. However, many users neglect to install these important updates. To keep your connected devices protected, check for and install all updates as soon as they become available. Some devices have automatic update features you can enable so you don’t have to manually apply updates. Updates take just a few minutes and are one of the most crucial things you can do to improve security.
Configure Your Home Router Securely
Your home router or gateway is the central connection point for your smart home devices, so securing it should be a priority. Start by changing the administrator password from the default. Disable remote administrative access and use a firewall. Enable WPA3 encryption if your router supports it and turn off WPS. Set up a guest network for visitors and smart home devices to prevent them from accessing other devices on your main home network. Use these router hardening techniques to protect your network from intrusions.
Connect Devices to a Separate Network
While you want your computer and mobile devices on your primary home network, it’s wise to place most smart home devices on a separate network. This practice segments insecure IoT devices into their own corner of your network, limiting the damage a compromised device could do. The most effective approach is to set up a virtual LAN (VLAN) on your router if it supports it. Otherwise, a separate wireless network for your smart home gear also works.
Avoid Connecting Critical Infrastructure
Be very selective about which IoT devices you allow onto your core home network and systems. Gadgets like smart speakers, lights, and appliances pose little security risk on their own. On the other hand, avoid connecting critical infrastructure like security cameras, locks, alarms, and sprinkler systems to your main Wi-Fi network. The consequences of a breach into these systems could be severe. Isolate them on a separate VLAN or network.
Research Before Buying
Before purchasing a new connected device, do some research to assess its security. Look at reviews for any vulnerabilities that have been found. Opt for devices using the latest Wi-Fi encryption standards like WPA3. Check if the company releases frequent firmware updates to fix bugs. Favor well-established brands with a reputation for taking security seriously. For optimal protection, only bring devices into your home that exceed security expectations.
Disable Unneeded Services
Reduce your threat exposure by disabling any unnecessary apps, services, and features on your connected devices. Most IoT gadgets try to be helpful by offering a wide range of functionality. However, each extra component introduces possible weak points a hacker could exploit. Turn off anything you don’t use to eliminate potential vulnerabilities. For example, disable the remote access feature on a smart thermostat if you never control it when away from home.
Perform Security Audits
On a regular basis, take time to audit your connected devices and ensure optimal security settings are in place. Check that you have configured all devices according to best practices, patched to the latest firmware versions, and disabled unneeded services. Resetting passwords periodically is another good idea to do during an audit. Staying vigilant about regularly auditing your IoT security will help identify and address any risks.
Consider a Firewall
For an extra layer of protection, install a firewall designed for IoT networks. A firewall monitors traffic in and out of your network and blocks suspicious activity. Sophos Home is a good consumer firewall option with advanced intrusion prevention for IoT devices. Using a firewall to manage your network traffic adds substantial security.
Replace Default SSIDs
The default SSIDs broadcast by most routers and access points include the manufacturer name and model. This openly reveals details about your network hardware to any hackers in the vicinity. To avoid exposing this potentially useful intel, change your Wi-Fi network names to something unique. Keep your network names vague by not including your name, address, or other personal information.
Use Multiple SSIDs
Configuring your wireless router or access point to broadcast multiple SSIDs can improve IoT security. Create different network names for your private devices, guests, and IoT gadgets. Using distinct SSIDs with separate passwords and settings for each group makes it easier to control access and apply specific security policies to the more untrusted IoT devices.
Place Devices Away From Doors/Windows
The physical location where you install connected devices on your property can affect security. Placing indoor IoT gadgets like cameras and voice assistants close to doors or windows increases the risk of outside tampering. When possible, mount and position devices away from exterior access points to make physical intrusion harder. This is just one aspect of physical security to consider for optimal protection.
Securing the growing number of Internet-connected devices in homes and businesses requires vigilance. Implementing strong passwords, keeping firmware updated, separating networks, disabling features, auditing, and taking other steps discussed here will go a long way toward improving IoT security. Paying attention to the physical placement of devices is also important. With wise precautions, users can help protect their data, privacy, and property from IoT-related threats.