How to protect your smart home from security threats

Have you downloaded the new iOS10 on your iPhone? If you have, you might have noticed a new app called ‘My Home’ which allows you to “build your connected home by adding lights, locks, thermostats and other HomeKit-enabled accessories.”

This is the latest step in the world of the Internet of Things and interconnected smart devices. While many will celebrate this advancement in technology, the blossoming Internet of Things is top of the cybersecurity agenda at the moment due to the risks involved with home devices being connected to smartphones, and thus open to hacking.

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Smart homes were certainly one of the most discussed topics at this year’s Black Hat USA conference, which was hosted last month in Las Vegas. At the event, McAfee researchers provided new insights into how ransomware could affect and infect a smart home by identifying a vulnerability in a home automation appliance and executing an exploitation of the vulnerability, allowing an attacker to plant ransomware or malware on the device.

The problem, as Gary Davis, McAfee’s Chief Consumer Security Evangelist, points out in his blog, is that security isn’t being built into smart devices, rather it’s being ‘bolted on’. That means that if an appliance fails it is automatically open to new security threats. Instead, smart devices need to have a safe and reliable default mode to revert to, as well as remote updating capabilities. This is the responsibility of manufacturers, but consumers can take steps to protect themselves and their smart devices.

Given that 71% of Americans expect at least one smart device to be in every home by 2025, how can homeowners protect themselves and their smart devices? We’ve provided some tips below:

  • Secure your WiFi network by updating your router and making sure it has secure mechanisms in place. Also, disable guest network access
  • Be in the know about what smart devices you have in your home and how they are connected. This way you can keep on top of system updates, passwords and more
  • Buy your smart devices from trusted brands that are more likely to have a high level of security and push out regular updates. When they do have updates, install them immediately
  • Install security software on mobile phones and tablets used to control IoT devices. See more of McAfee’s security software packages here.

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