Is Your Smart Home A Safe Home?

By connecting to the internet, smart home devices provide a wide world of possibilities. But it also opens the door to malicious code and hackers trying to digitally break in, leaving you potentially less secure and even open to physical attacks.

However, with some smart decisions in setting up your security system, you can get the smart home you always wanted without leaving yourself open to risks.

Who Wants To Hack Me?

You may think that you’re not doing anything hackers would want to access, but leaving smart home devices unsecured can have repercussions around the globe. In fact, one of the largest cyber attacks in the internet’s history was perpetrated by hackers linking together as many as 100,000 small devices like routers, printers and smart home gadgets. So securing your smart home benefits the greater good.

But there are more immediate, practical reasons for cyber-securing your home. Burglars can use info from your hacked devices like alarm systems or security cameras to know when to strike. They can even monitor smart light bulbs or switches to get an idea of when you’re not home, providing a window to break in. Follow the steps below to keep your smart home secure.

Change Your Password

A password update may be all you need to start getting secure. Choosing complicated, unique passwords for each of your systems will go a long way in keeping people out. Create these complex passwords for everything: your Wi-Fi network, the account for your connected thermostat, the app for you smart bulbs. Don’t forget your router too — many times a hacker can wreak havoc by changing admin settings on a router, since most people leave the default password in place.

Now, complicated passwords aren’t always easy to remember, and you don’t want to be the one locked out. The best way to create and remember all these passwords is to use a password manager. This is a program that generates complicated passwords and stores them for you, so you only have one password to remember.

The password manager then encrypts those passwords and stores them safely on your device. You can sync them via cloud services as well, but since they’re encrypted, no one can break into them while they’re being transmitted. Password manager programs include 1Password and LastPass, but many browsers have this functionality built in, which makes filling in passwords a breeze.

Go With Brand Names And Keep Devices Updated

Another good way to stay secure is to go with popular brand names. You may be able to snag a great deal on an IP camera from a bargain site, but it’s likely that the manufacturer’s app is out of date and may have security flaws. Big names like Belkin, Philips or Nest are often a better bet than an off brand.

That doesn’t mean name recognition is everything. If you spot a good deal, search the web for reviews and ensure they’re up to date. The smart home space is new, so new players are popping up on the scene all the time, sometimes with from established players using new names that you can trust with your security.

Not only will those more-known brands offer more protection up front, but they also usually invest more in securing your device down the line. No code is perfect, so sometimes a security patch is needed. Good device makers will prompt you to update your gadget’s firmware when needed, and will always be actively looking for weak points.

Go Off The Grid

Sometimes, going off the grid may be the best way to stay safe. That doesn’t mean giving up all your smart home stuff though. For example, many security cameras can record footage locally, meaning you’ll be able to review it from your home, but it’s never uploaded to the cloud. Philips Hue light bulbs can also be controlled with only a local connection. And most smart door locks offer Bluetooth-only modes that only connect to authorized devices when they’re within range.

There are also devices that don’t rely on the cloud, instead connecting directly with a web page or app. By not connecting to a third party, there’s one less way for hackers to gain access. This is a good middle ground for those who want to monitor their devices while away without offering hackers as easy a path into their home.

It may be best to go day-to-day with your devices offline, connecting them up to the internet only when you’re out on vacation or having a cleaning crew come to your home. Just be sure to follow all the other advice in this article when you’re bringing them back online.

To recap, here are the best ways to make your smart home a safe home:

  • Choose strong passwords for all your devices, and use a password manager to save them
  • Go with brand names or do research to make sure the devices don’t have security flaws
  • Always keep devices updated with the latest firmware
  • Use local access options as much as possible
  • Consider devices that don’t connect through the cloud

Explore your options with our review of the best home security cameras. 

Gabe Turner

Gabe Turner

Gabe Turner is an attorney and journalist with a passion for home tech and secure, efficient living. Since graduating from NYU Law, he has maintained a paradoxical existence of trying to live life adventurously while remaining staunchly risk-averse. He is torn by the dual desires of wanting to only be in Brooklyn writing about housing policy and smart home tech and aspiring to visit his friends scattered across the globe. Gabe believes that stable, safe communities are the cornerstone to a vibrant and healthy society, and it is this passion that brought him to contribute to Security Baron.

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