In an increasingly connected world, it’s becoming harder to find a home that doesn’t have at least one smart device. In fact, research shows that, by 2026, there will be three million smart homes in South Africa.
Whether it’s a smart TV, a smart plug that lets you turn devices on and off remotely, or a doorbell with a fully functioning camera, these devices are here to stay. However, while these gadgets provide convenience, they are also simultaneously multiplying the number of access points that hackers can use to steal private and personal information, such as email addresses or credit card information.
An investigation by Which? reported that, on average, homes with smart devices are vulnerable to 12,000 hacking or unknown scanning attacks from across the world in just a single week. News reports have shared horror stories ranging from smart devices listening to private conversations to hackers using camera-enabled gadgets to gain access to a constant stream of live video from inside homes.
With more people working from home today, attackers are also going a step further: targeting unprotected work devices connected to the same compromised Wi-Fi and gaining access to the corporate network. By using our smart home devices as a gateway, these intruders can leave behind a path of chaos, affecting not only personal privacy but also resulting in a possible corporate-wide data breach.
Pankaj Bhula, Regional Director for Africa at Check Point Software Technologies said, “South Africans are hyper aware of the precautions to take to prevent burglars from entering our homes and stealing our physical possessions. However, most often, we overlook the hidden threats posed by our smart home devices that allow malicious hackers with sinister intentions to watch and listen to our most private conversations conducted in the comfort and confines of our own homes.
“With every year that passes, we are seeing a constant trend of hackers becoming ever more aggressive and, as a result, any device connected to the internet is ‘fair game.’ In the landscape we now live in, it’s not enough to assume that these incidences just ‘won’t happen’ to you, and all owners of these devices should be taking extra precautions to keep their information protected. It only takes only one overlooked device for a hacker to create untold harm and distress.”
Tips to keep your smart home devices safe and secure
- Update software: Regularly updating your devices’ software when required is a must to keep your home and your data protected. You can also purchase additional antivirus software for your mobile devices, which doesn’t have to cost a fortune. It can often work out to the same price as buying one cup of coffee a day. With hackers using more sophisticated attack methods, it’s important to have the best and newest form of protection against these evolving threats.
- Set up a standalone Wi-Fi network for your devices: Most routers let you create a separate network for your smart home devices, which will make it harder for hackers to access your devices. You can also consider creating a ‘guest setting’ for your Wi-Fi. This will allow your friends and family to access the internet without the risk of you having to write down or virtually share your primary network login details.
- Level up your passwords: Create strong passwords for each device, ensuring that they are random and not personal to the individual that owns the device. Personal information, like your birthday, is easier for hackers to find. If you struggle to remember complex passwords, consider using a password manager to help keep your devices protected.
- Double authentication: By setting up a second form of authentication, known as two-factor authentication or 2FA, hackers can be deterred from accessing your devices. While this may pose a mild inconvenience to you, it’s nothing compared to the turmoil a hacker can cause once they’ve gained access to your smart home devices.
- Encryption: Ensure your router is using the highest level of encryption to keep your data safe from unwanted threats. Don’t forget about any internal Wi-Fi extenders or powerline home networks that will also have a setting to allow encryption across the home network. Doing this will add an extra layer of protection not only for your router, but also for your 0
- Change the default password on your router: This is separate to your Wi-Fi passwords but just as important. Most routers come with a simple default password to allow for easy set-up, but as a result are just as easy for hackers to guess. There are even lists of the most common passwords online, so be safe and change them as soon as possible.
- Keep your work devices protected: With more people working from home, it’s important that your work devices are as protected as personal ones when they are relying on your home Wi-Fi. Make sure your devices are up to date with the latest anti-malware technology. By keeping everything secure, you can reduce the threat posed to your smart devices.