In today’s world, it is customary for each and every one of us to walk around with at least one Internet-capable device on us at all times — be it our phones, smart watches, or even smart jewelry, we’re almost always in contact with one of these devices. Every Internet-enabled piece of technology makes up a piece of the larger technological tapestry that is the Internet of Things, commonly referred to as IoT. IoT helps to make our lives easier in a number of ways, including the wearables mentioned before, as wells as our smart home security systems, personal assistances, smart medical devices, and more. While these IoT devices can make our lives much more manageable in a variety of ways, there are a number of cybersecurity risks that they pose as well. It is important to be aware of ways to avoid or reduce these threats in order to continue living a safe and IoT-friendly life.
Reset device default settings. Reconfiguring your device to not be the same as all of the other devices that came off the factory line adds an additional layer of security to your device. For example, if the standard is for a device password to be 1234default! then anyone else with another one of the specific device in question knows that this is the basic security in place when one initially purchases this product. If you change your device passwords and other configurations to be different from the other devices, you set yourself off on the right foot for having a secure device.
Use unique, strong passwords. When you reconfigure your device, be sure that you give your IoT device a unique (not used with any other logins) and strong (not easily guessed) password. This makes it more difficult for a random person to be able to have access to your device, should they get their hands on it. It also can help to protect your device further if you connect to an unsecure network.
Enable two-factor authentication whenever possible. To double up on your password protection benefits, be sure to take advantage of two-factor authentication whenever possible. This typically looks like getting a code texted or emailed to the phone number or email address on file for that account. This may seem like a useless extra step that just means more time spent trying to log into your devices, but it actually is incredibly useful in adding another, relatively quick layer of protection between you and a malicious actor trying to gain illegitimate access to your information.
Only connect to networks you trust. Many restaurants and businesses encourage patrons to sit and stay awhile by offering free WiFi for your use. While this can seem very nice and like something you’d like to take advantage of, it is in your best interest to avoid using these and other public networks as much as possible. Connecting your devices to these networks makes them more accessible to the other devices connected to those same networks — when you connect to a network that is not private to you or someone you know and trust, you risk connecting directly to a network on which a malicious actor is also connected to. Any vulnerabilities that the network you connect to has, your device is now at risk for. Though it may sometimes seem necessary to connect to public WiFi, do not do so often and if you do, do not conduct any private, sensitive business such as checking your bank statements or making financial transactions.
Keep your devices up-to-date. As new software updates come available, be sure to install them on your IoT devices. These security updates not only give you cool new features not previously available on the older versions of the software, but they usually patch any existing security flaws that may have been uncovered as well. On top of these additions, software updates often offer new preventative measures that the company has determined would be useful for your device’s continued operations.
Keep your networks protected. Just as important as keeping your devices together is the need to keep your home network and other networks you connect your devices to regularly updated with the newest updates available. This step allows you to ensure that the trusted networks that you usually know are safe to use, are in fact working with your devices and not against them indirectly.