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The Holiday Guide to Tech Support: Smart Home Security Assessment

Filip TRUȚĂ

December 07, 2021

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The Holiday Guide to Tech Support: Smart Home Security Assessment

Homes these days are chock full of internet-connected gizmos. From smart lights to smart TVs, the Internet of Things is a versatile world. And, like anything popular, it attracts both good and bad. This holiday season, share some of these smart-home tips with your loved ones.

Change administrator passwords

The IoT realm includes any device that connects to the web. This makes them “smart.” Routers and IP cameras (surveillance cams, baby monitors etc) are among the most vulnerable devices in a household. Both these products ship with admin passwords issued by the vendor. And chances are the default password is up on the web for anyone to find with the right query. If you don’t change that password, someone may guess the credentials to that device and take control of it. You don’t want that happening to your router, and you certainly don’t want it happening to an IP camera capturing live video from inside your house.

This goes for any IoT device, whether it’s a smart thermostat, smart fridge or smart TV. Whether you’re setting up a new device or servicing an existing one, change the default credentials and choose your own, unique password. Make it alphanumerical and sprinkle in a couple of special characters too, for good measure.

Build a guest network

If you’re setting up a device for the first time and you’re not sure how it behaves or what hidden features it has, it’s best to set it up on a guest network. In fact, it’s wise to consider all IoTs untrusted and keep them on a secluded network.

Disable features you don’t need

If you don’t need them, disable things like open TCP/UDP ports, open serial ports and password prompts, unsecured radio connections or any type of unencrypted communications.

Monitor devices for unusual behavior

This may sound rudimentary but, since some security flaws are patched too late or never, the best way to know if something’s wrong is to check your device for abnormalities. If you have any reason to think the device is not working as it should, cut its internet connection and phone the vendor. Better safe than sorry.

Keep IoTs updated

Another good way to maintain good cybersecurity hygiene is to keep your smart devices updated with the latest firmware or service updates at all times. If the vendor is on top of the latest vulnerabilities, chances are the latest update patches those flaws, locking hackers out. Unfortunately, not all IoT vendors are so attentive with the security of their products. So be sure to choose reputable brands that support their products with timely system updates.

Use a ‘trusted’ router

As we’ve stressed in previous guides, the home router is the gateway to every data packet coming in and going out, making it a prime target for attackers looking to set foot in your network. Some router sellers, like our partners at Netgear, bake security right into their products. Consider opting for a smart router running Bitdefender’s IoT Security Platform, whether it’s a commercial one, or the one from your Internet Service Provider (ISP). This way, you also get valuable information about any vulnerable IoT gizmos that may be living on your home network, and it can stop attackers before they reach them.

If you’re not ready to switch routers, be sure to use the tips in our previous guide, The Holiday Guide to Tech Support: Fixing and Hardening the Family Router.

To help you get device care over with and get back to the dinner table, cyber-security experts at Bitdefender have prepared a maintenance checklist that you can download below:

Download the printable checklist here

Stay safe!

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