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Top Ways to Protect Your Smart Home From Cyberattacks

Oct 02, 2023|

When it comes to security, we often think about the physical security of our home. But there’s another type of security everyone should be aware of—cybersecurity.

October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month, and it’s the perfect time to learn what you can do to ensure your family’s home network and online presence are secure.

Man checking emails on his smartphone.
 

What is Cybersecurity Awareness Month?

Cybersecurity Awareness Month was launched in 2004 as a way to bring awareness to ongoing and rapidly-evolving cyber threats that face homes and businesses in this digital age.

Cybersecurity awareness is more important than ever. Over 90% of homes in the U.S. have internet access, and most of us can’t imagine life without it. With the Internet of things (IoT), which refers to the network of IoT devices connected to the Internet, we have the ability to lock our doors from miles away, check security cameras from our phones, and even preheat the oven on the way home from work, to name a few.

Each of these wi-fi connected devices has vulnerabilities that can expose the information transmitted through them, from passwords to social security numbers to bank accounts. Cybersecurity Awareness Month highlights the importance of knowing potential cybersecurity risks and taking steps to protect your sensitive data from hackers, malware, and other cyberattacks.

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Types of cyber threats

Some of the most common cyber security threats that internet-connected devices are susceptible to include:

  • Hackers. Hackers are like cyber burglars—instead of breaking into a home or business, they break into a computer or network. Hackers then steal information, infect computers with viruses or malware, or even gain remote access to devices.
  • Phishing. Phishing is the practice of sending fraudulent emails in order to gain access to sensitive data, such as passwords or account information. Phishing emails are designed to look like emails from reputable companies that you have a relationship with, like your bank or wi-fi provider. These emails are often very convincing; in fact, 36% of data breaches are the direct result of a phishing attack.
  • Identity theft occurs when someone uses your identifying information, like your name, birthdate, or social security number, to commit fraud. Often this comes in the form of opening accounts in your name, get medical service, or file taxes. Identity theft can damage your credit and takes a significant amount of time to reverse.
  • Online scams. Internet-based scams vary, but the most common ones frequently appeal to emotion and target more vulnerable populations, such as the elderly. These scams often con people out of money and include posing as a grandchild stranded during who needs money or an online romance that gains the victim’s trust and cons them out of money.
  • Password attacks. Passwords give cybercriminals access to a wealth of personal data and information, making password attacks common. Hackers use a combination of methods—from sophisticated attempts to monitor keystrokes to simply guessing default passwords—in order to obtain passwords.
  • Denial of service and Distributed Denial of Service (DDOS attacks). A DOS cyberattack sends harmful or malicious traffic to a computer or server in order to deny access or shut it down. A DDOS attack is similar, but uses resources from multiple online locations to attack a business or network. This can result in an inability to access a website or computer. Some hackers even use this type of attack to hold a computer “ransom,” requiring payment to get it up and running again.
Woman on her phone in her living room.
 

Smart home cybersecurity tips

While this may sound frightening, protecting your smart home system from cyberattacks isn’t difficult or expensive. In fact, it can be as simple as updating your passwords.

Here are a few ways you can improve your home network security and keep your home safe:

Make stronger passwords

One of the most effective ways to protect your home is also the easiest—use strong passwords for your router, smart home technology, and your Wi-Fi network. Some tips for strong passwords include:

  • Never use the device’s default password
  • Avoid commonly-used passwords, including birthdates, addresses, or number sequences (1234)
  • Use a long combination of letters, numbers, and characters (at least 10-15 characters)
  • Use unique passwords for each device (hint: a password manager can help you safely track your passwords)
  • Change passwords every three months or if you suspect your device or login information were used without your permission

Use IoT devices with security features

Choose smart home devices that are equipped with security features to protect your home’s network. For example, you’ll want to look for smart devices that have 128-bit (minimum) AES encryption, a form of encryption that protects online information. This type of encryption is found in Vivint devices like smart locks and the Smart Hub to ensure your network is protected.

Think before you click

Knowing how to identify phishing attempts can help protect your data. Additionally, a few precautions you can take to protect yourself and your loved ones online include:

  • Never click links or download attachments from a suspicious email.
  • Check the sender’s address, which may have a string of long words or letters or a free email account, rather than an official address.
  • Be on the lookout for poor grammar and spelling mistakes.
  • Never financial information, including account number or passwords, on a link from an email.
  • When in doubt, contact the company by phone to verify anything in a suspicious email. Be sure you don’t use the phone number provided in the email.

Protect computers with firewalls and VPN

A firewall is a type of network security that monitors and protects your computer from unauthorized access. Most firewalls are software or firmware that are installed or downloaded on your computer. You can protect your home from hackers, malware, and other threats by installing firewalls on all computers and making sure they’re renewed automatically.

Another way to protect your computer and the data you submit into websites is through a VPN, or Virtual Private Network.

Secure your wireless routers

Your wireless router is what keeps your entire smart home system—from your smart thermostat to doorbell cameras to your smart TV—connected and running. As the gateway to your smart home network (and all of your sensitive data), securing it is crucial to protecting your home from cyberattacks.

A few ways to lockdown your router include:

  • Choose trusted device manufacturers that provide automatic updates, so you don’t have to manually update security patches.
  • Update models as needed. Manufacturers will eventually stop supporting older models with security updates, so make sure your router is up to date.
  • Change the default SSID (the name of your network) and the default password. Choose strong, unique passwords and update them regularly.

Use two-factor authentication

The most common way to protect access on devices and systems is through the username and password. Two-factor authentication adds an additional layer of data protection by requiring two unique forms of identification in order to gain access. An example of this would be after entering the correct username and password, you would then have to enter a code sent to your email address or via text message.

This type of authentication helps protect you from hackers who don’t have access to that second form of verification. It also helps alert you to potential fraudulent activity; if you get a prompt to enter your code on a certain website even though you didn’t attempt to log in to it, it could indicate that someone is trying to access your account.

Keep software and smart home devices updated

It can be tempting to click “ignore” when notifications to update your operating system or device pop up. However, these updates often include critical security patches that keep your devices and IoT network safe from cyberattacks.

You can make it easier by signing up for automatic updates on your smart devices.

Family on the couch at home.
 

Let Vivint help protect your home from cyberattacks

Staying safe from cyberattacks isn’t hard, but it does require some vigilance and awareness on your part.

In addition to these tips, choosing a trusted provider like Vivint for your security solutions can help ensure your home is protected from both physical and invisible threats.

To learn more about how Vivint can keep your home and family safe, give us a call today at 855.822.1220.

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