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    Effectively Secure Your Connected Devices and Keep Your Home Safe

    October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month and this year, more than ever, it’s crucial to make sure that all of your at-home devices are secured and protected!  With so many people working from home for the foreseeable future, it’s especially important to take all of the suggested measures to secure all your connected devices.  Cybersecurity is often taken too lightly, and the results of such negligence can be both terrifying and dangerous.  From your router to your various smart accessories, here is a breakdown for protecting both your home and your family from hackers:

     

    Your Wi-Fi Router

    This is an important first step in securing your in-home cyber presence since everything is controlled by your router and the network it provides.

    • Once you get your router set up, make sure you immediately change the factory password that it came with. ALWAYS configure your network so it is password protected!  A public network is the easiest way for a hacker to gain control of every smart device in your home.
    • Make sure this password is unique and something that only your family would know. Remember to make it case-sensitive and add both numbers and symbols.  No one should be able to gain access to your home’s network without knowing this unique password.
    • Once you have changed the password to connect to the network, you should then change the password to gain access to the router’s settings. This password should also be unique and NOT the same as the connection password.
    • Make sure you are always aware of the devices connected to the network. Name them all so they are recognizable and familiar when connected.  This will make it easier to notice unfamiliar devices and hackers.
    • Consider a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to truly be protected.

    Computers

    • Always have an up-to-date firewall, anti-virus, and anti-spy software installed and running. These are the security bones of any laptop or desktop.
    • If there is a camera, disable it when you don’t need to use it.  To go an extra step (you can never be too safe), tape a small piece of paper or a post-it note over it as well. Hackers know how to turn on your camera and watch and listen to what is going on in your home.
    • When disposing of an old computer, ALWAYS make sure everything is wiped off and back to factory mode.
    • Have a login password different from any of your other devices.
    • Make sure to shop safely and always know who you’re giving information to. If it doesn’t seem legitimate, it most likely isn’t.
    • Don’t save your passwords. While it might be inconvenient to have to enter your password on every shopping and membership site you visit, it is the smart way to go about it.
    • If you have children, always make sure to have strict restrictions in place on where they can navigate when online.

     

    Voice Assistants

    • Always know when it’s listening. Whenever the device is on and unmuted, it’s listening.  Whether you’re talking to it or not, it is hearing and collecting everything you say!  If you aren’t using it for informational or instructional purposes, turn the microphone off altogether.
    • Make sure you know the privacy policy before you plug it in. For information and upgrade purposes, some companies that make these devices allow employees to listen in.  Always read the fine print!
    • Control who can be connected. You can add pins and passcodes to these devices so only you can make voice commands and access personal information such as your email account.
    • When available, use multi-factor authentication. This even furthers the unlikely hood of a hacker getting access to your information, even if they have somehow gotten ahold of your password or pin.
    • Keep everything up to date and familiarize yourself with the settings. Knowing how to control every aspect will help you have the confidence to make sure your device is secure.

     

    Smart Doorbells and Outdoor Security Cameras

    • Always make sure they are connected to a protected network with a strong firewall.
    • Have them mounted securely onto your home so they can’t be stolen and used elsewhere.
    • NEVER post videos from your smart doorbells and cameras on social media. While it might seem harmless, sharing these videos can jeopardize both your privacy and security.  Once your home is on the internet, it will always be on the internet.
    • Delete old footage. Keeping archives gives a potential hacker more information about your home and its security.
    • When updating the devices, make sure to keep both the actual device, as well as the app, up to date.

     

    WIFI Baby Monitors

    • Most baby monitors don’t automatically come password protected. Before you even plug it in for the first time, set up a unique password.  This is an absolute must!
    • Make sure the firmware is always up to date.
    • Make sure remote access is turned off. This disallows anyone accessing the camera unless they are in your home, connected to your secured network.
    • Change the port that is used to access the camera on your phone. Typically set at 80 (which is what hackers will check for), try to switch to a much higher number, if possible.
    • Personalize anything on the app that comes in a default setting.
    • Regularly check the sign-in logs. You want to keep an eye out for unrecognized IP addresses and unusual sign-in times.

     

    Smartphone

    • Keep your location turned off at all times. If you get hacked, having your location turned on allows the hacker to know exactly where you are.
    • Don’t connect to unknown WIFI networks. While it might be convenient to connect via an unsecured WIFI network while you’re out to eat or shopping, try your best to resist.  Connecting to a public network allows anyone else connected the ability to hack your device.
    • Make sure to manage permission given to each app. Apps will individually ask for permission for various allowances such as location, cookies, camera, and microphone access, etc.  Make sure you are managing each app and know exactly what you are and aren’t allowing.  Always check your settings after each update to make sure new permission hasn’t automatically been allowed for an app.
    • Have auto-lock on at all times. If you aren’t using your phone, keep it locked and password protected.  You never know whose hands it will end up in!
    • Only connect your Bluetooth when necessary! Sure, you’ll want to use handsfree while in your car but once you’re out, consider turning the Bluetooth off altogether.
    • Always make sure your phone is up to date and backed up. Like every other device, this is crucial.
    • Ignore and delete spam and unknown emails. Don’t even open them!  This also goes for text messages.  If you don’t know the number, don’t reply.

     

    What if you get hacked?

    • Make sure you have all of your important information backed up. If you ever get hacked, this might be the only way to get that information back.
    • Change passwords to everything. It’s amazing how, once successfully in, hackers can get from one device to the next using your network.  If you are hacked on one device, give the thought of changing all of your passwords some serious consideration.
    • Immediately monitor your credit cards and bank account! Cancel and contact them the second you see any suspicious activity.

     

    Final Thoughts

    • Consider setting up separate VPN’s for all of your smart devices. This will alleviate the risk of getting hacked within each device when connected.
    • Make sure you update all of your devices regularly! This is often overlooked but can’t be stressed enough.  Updates help to keep the protection of your current devices and limit the hacking of the devices.
    • Change your passwords when necessary. Whether this is a routine practice in your home, or not, you should keep in mind that when you are prompted to change one password, you should strongly consider changing all of them.
    • There are many smart device options to have in our homes. Make sure you are taking all of the necessary precautions with the devices mentioned above, as well as smart devices such as TVs, weather stations, and video game counsels.

     

    All signs are pointing to smart homes as the future and, while this is a tremendous step for technology, it’s crucial that homeowners know just what it takes to protect themselves and their families!

     

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