6 Surprising Ways Hackers Can Exploit Your Smart Home Devices

Date: 19 April 2024

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Did you know that in 2022 there were over 112 million malware attacks on smart home devices and other IoT devices?

These gadgets that help manage everything from your lights to your thermostat can also open doors to unwanted intruders. How secure is your home against digital threats and cyber attacks

Let's look at how you might be at risk and what you can do to protect your home.

What puts your Smart Devices at Security Risk? 

#1. Weak Passwords

A strong password acts as a robust barrier against unauthorised access. However, many people opt for overly simple or default passwords that come pre-set with their devices.

Hackers target these weak passwords as their first point of attack. If they succeed in cracking them, they gain the ability to manipulate your devices remotely.

To prevent this, never stick with the default password. Instead, create a password that mixes uppercase letters, lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. Such combinations are much harder for hackers to guess. Think about using phrases or strings of words that are meaningful only to you but appear random to others.

And remember, using the same password across different devices increases your risk. If a hacker discovers one password, they could potentially access all your devices. Keep updating your passwords regularly to further enhance security.

#2. Unsecured Wi-Fi Networks

Your home Wi-Fi network links all your smart devices to the internet, serving as the main entry point for your digital home management.

If this network is not properly secured, it's like leaving your front door open for anyone to walk in. Hackers can exploit an unsecured Wi-Fi network to gain access to your smart devices and personal data.

But you can take steps to secure your network effectively. Start by setting up WPA2 or WPA3 encryption, which are currently the strongest security measures available for home networks. This type of encryption scrambles the information on your network, making it extremely difficult for hackers to decode.

Additionally, always ensure your router’s firmware is up to date. Manufacturers release software updates to address vulnerabilities and enhance security features. Regular updates help safeguard your network against emerging threats and provide better protection for your connected devices.

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#3. Phishing Attacks

Hackers are as deceptive as they come. They might send you an email that looks like it's from someone you trust, like the company that made your smart device.

Such emails often tell you to click on a link to fix a problem or update your account information. When you click, you might be taken to a fake website that steals your password or other private information.

So, be very careful with any email that asks for your personal details. If the email looks strange or asks for urgent action, it's likely a trap. Instead of clicking on any links, go directly to the official website by typing it into your browser or call the company to make sure the request is real.

And don't just ignore updates to your email settings. Use filters that help detect spam and phishing attempts. This can keep many harmful emails from ever reaching your inbox.

#4. Outdated Firmware

The software that makes your smart devices work is called firmware. Device makers often release updates to this software. These updates are important because they fix flaws that could let hackers into your devices.

If your devices are running old firmware, they're not as secure as they could be. Make it a habit to check for software updates at least once a month. You can usually find this option in the device's settings menu.

But it's even better if your device can update itself automatically. Look in the settings for an option to turn on automatic updates.

This way, your device will update as soon as a new version of the software is available. Keeping your firmware up to date is a simple step that plays a critical role in protecting your devices from attacks. 

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#5. No Two-Factor Authentication

Two-factor authentication (2FA) acts as an extra shield for your devices. This method requires you to provide two types of information before you can access your accounts.

Even if a hacker discovers your password, they won't be able to log in without the second factor, which could be a code sent to your phone or a fingerprint.

Turning on 2FA can significantly boost your security. Check your device settings to enable this feature. Most smartphones and many smart home devices now offer this option.

In fact, Upbeat, a UK-based digital marketing agency, strongly recommends enabling 2FA for all clients to enhance their overall digital security. So, don't overlook it; it's a powerful tool to keep your digital life secure.

And don't forget, the extra few seconds it takes to use 2FA could save you from a lot of trouble later. Many services also offer backup codes or alternative methods in case you lose access to your primary method, so keep these in a safe place.

#6. Using Public Wi-Fi

It's common to manage smart home devices through your phone, which often means connecting to Wi-Fi networks outside your home. However, public Wi-Fi can be very risky. Hackers can easily intercept the information you send and receive on these networks.

But you can protect yourself. Always use a VPN (virtual private network) when connecting to public Wi-Fi. A VPN encrypts your data, making it difficult for anyone else to see what you're sending or receiving. This way, you can manage your devices without risking your personal information.

Always be cautious with public Wi-Fi. Avoid accessing sensitive accounts or making transactions unless you're connected through a VPN. This simple habit can prevent many potential security breaches. 

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Wrapping Up

By understanding the risks and implementing these straightforward measures, you can significantly enhance the security of your smart home.

Protecting your digital environment is an ongoing process, but with the right precautions, you can enjoy the conveniences of smart technology without becoming an easy target for hackers.

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