Smart home safety tips

Smart homes offer convenience and efficiency, controlling your lights and thermostat with an app, having an Alexa at your beck and call. 

But as we embrace convenience, it’s essential to consider the potential risks. As well as take proactive steps to ensure that your smart home doesn’t turn against you.

Recent headlines have shed light on the vulnerabilities of smart home technology such as the New York Post’s article titled “Locked Out & Hacked: When Smart Homes Turn on Owners”. 

The article describes smart home nightmares including the new owner of a smart home that unexpectedly got locked in. The prior owner had left preprogrammed settings. Suddenly at 11.30pm, the home told him it was time to go to bed and locked every door in the house.

As homes get smarter, how can you avoid a similar experience? Here, we explore some key strategies to protect your home and your privacy.

Secure Your Network

The foundation of any smart home is its network. Just as you wouldn’t leave your front door wide open, you shouldn’t neglect Wi-Fi security. 

Here are best practices:

  • Change your router’s default password to something strong and unique. 
  • Create a separate guest network to isolate your smart devices from your main network. 
  • Regularly update your router’s firmware. Ensure it’s equipped with the latest security patches.

Strengthen Device Passwords

When setting up your smart devices, be diligent about choosing strong, unique passwords. Avoid using easily guessable information like “123456” or “password.” Use a combination of upper and lower-case letters, numbers, and symbols. For added security, consider using a password manager.

Enable Two-Factor Authentication

Many smart home device manufacturers offer 2FA as an extra layer of security. By enabling 2FA you can keep people out. This is true even if someone manages to guess your password. They won’t be able to get past the secondary authentication step. This provides an extra safeguard against unauthorised access.

Regularly Update 

Firmware updates are essential for fixing security vulnerabilities in your smart devices. Manufacturers release these updates to patch discovered weaknesses. Make it a habit to check for firmware updates regularly and apply them promptly.

Vet Your Devices

Not all smart devices are created equal. When choosing new devices for your smart home, research the manufacturer’s reputation. Look for products that have a history of prompt updates and robust security features. Avoid purchasing devices from obscure or untrusted brands.

Isolate Sensitive Devices

Consider segregating your most sensitive devices onto a separate network, if possible. For example, use a dedicated network for:

  • Smart locks
  • Security cameras

This keeps them separate from your less critical gadgets. Such as smart bulbs or speakers. This way, even if a hacker compromises one network, the other devices remain secure.

Review App Permissions

Smart home apps often request access to various permissions on your devices. Before granting these permissions, scrutinise what data the app is trying to access, and decide whether it’s necessary for the device’s functionality. We would advise restricting permissions to the least required for the device to operate.

Be Cautious with Voice Assistants

Voice-activated assistants like Alexa and Google Assistant are incredibly convenient but can pose privacy risks. 

  • Review your voice assistant’s privacy settings. 
  • Be cautious about what information you share with them. 
  • Consider muting the microphone when you’re not actively using it. 

Check Your Devices Regularly

Regularly check the status and activity of your smart devices and keep an eye out for any unusual behaviour such as devices turning on or off unexpectedly or unknown devices appearing on your network. If you notice anything suspicious, investigate and take action promptly.

Understand Your Device’s Data Usage

Finally, review your smart device’s privacy policy so that you understand how it uses your data. Some devices may collect and share your information with third parties for advertising or other purposes. 

Ensure you make informed decisions about the devices you bring into your home.