As the use of smart devices is on the rise, and we bring more and more internet-connected gadgets into our homes, it’s easy to get carried away.
Swept up in the excitement of new technology and added convenience in our lives, we often find ourselves forgetting the importance of adequately addressing the security risks associated with the so-called Internet of Things (IoT).
And, that’s not a good thing.
We need to be careful, because the risks are as real as they are great when you think of the sheer number of devices we have connected.
Just last year in 2016, 5.5 million new devices were connected each day, with the total number expected to climb to 20 billion by 2020.
That leaves a whole lot of room for potential breaches of security.
Whether we’re talking about smart home technology like Amazon Echo, wearables like the Fitbit, or AT&T connected cars, it’s important to have security plans in place to avoid the risk of hacking and identity theft, both personal and enterprise.
Just as hackers develop new tricks, we too need to keep up to date on security best practices and make them a priority.
With that in mind, here are six tips to ensure IoT security and maintain your privacy while reaping the benefits of your hot new gadgets.
1. Create a separate network
Don’t leave yourself open for attack. A surefire way to make yourself vulnerable is to streamline all of your devices and internet connectivity to one network. Avoid data corruption by setting up a separate network for your IoT items, so visitors can log on via a guest connection without gaining access to your shared files or networked devices. Many routers come with this function in place, making it easy to take care of during the installation process.
2. Leave devices unplugged when not in use
Another good idea is to leave your devices disconnected from Wi-fi when you’re not using them. It may be tempting to leave all your smart technology toys plugged in at all times, after all you paid for the connectivity aspect, but it’s very unwise in terms of internet security.
When using one of your devices, let’s say the Fitbit, make a conscious decision whether you really need the added connectivity function on at the moment, or if you can turn it off after you’ve uploaded your data.
Or, say you’ve purchased a smart fridge, which allows you to use an app to view the contents while you’re out shopping. Make sure you remember to disconnect from the internet once you’re finished using the feature, and have the information you need.
3. Always use strong varied passwords
Though it’s tempting to use the same, or similar passwords across multiple devices, it’s important to use a different, strong password for each. If a hacker cracks one password and gains access to some of your data, they’ll try it again, along with similar combinations on other devices and data files as well.
Tips to creating a strong password include using a combination of letters, numbers and symbols, avoiding the use of personal information, and making sure your back-up password security options and questions are updated.
The ease and convenience of using one password is definitely not worth the risk, so get creative and keep passwords in a secure location if you need to write them down.
4. Don’t bring your IoT devices to work
Using your smart gadgets at work opens you up to all sorts of security risks, so it’s a good idea to keep them out of the office.
Take wearables as an example of where things can go wrong both for the user, as well as the business they work for. Due to their low security features, wearable internet-connected devices give hackers easy access to a potential treasure trove of information. They not only have insecure wireless connectivity issues, as they’re often left plugged into our smartphones via Bluetooth, they also lack encryption, resulting in serious issues with data in transit during the syncing process.
With sales of wearable electronic devices rapidly growing, reportedly topping 232 million in 2015, potential risks are on the rise and deserve attention.
So, leave them at home, and use them during your leisure.
5. Track and assess connected devices
Always be aware of all items that are connected at any given time, and what security protocols are in place for each. It’s a good idea to set up an alert system when any unknown device connects to the network.
Similarly, assess each device to determine its level of access, to make sure it’s fully patched and updated, and take measures to secure data end-to-end in order to ensure integrity.
6. Consider enterprise-level security solutions for your company
Enterprise-level security measures are preventative and real-time defense methods that can be implemented by businesses to protect their networks against potential threats.
They are designed to thwart phishing, spyware and the exploitation of vendor-specific vulnerabilities, among other risks.
Think routine system analysis, firewall and anti-virus protection, and intruder detection strategies. The idea is to prevent attacks before they happen, as well as manage them if they do occur, as a means to avoid significant server damage.
Taking a more conscious approach to security will be of big benefit both in the short and long term.
Designing and implementing specific strategies on a consistent basis will significantly lower the risks that come along with the increasing usage of smart technology.
And, ultimately, that added security assurance will make the use of your gadgets all the more enjoyable.