Today’s tech-driven age has resulted in a culture of people and homes being reliant on smart technological devices to get work done, socialise, entertain family and friends and, ultimately, make life more convenient. The connected individual, and resultantly the connected home, is a reality – but unfortunately, so are cybercriminals.
As people and homes become more connected, cybercriminals are eagerly looking for ways to take advantage of this growing trend. Instead of making life easier for their owners, smart connected devices are increasingly becoming a weak link in their overall security measures.
A recent survey commissioned by Kaspersky Lab* shows that of 266 respondents, 32% own a Smart TV, 11% an internet-connected home appliance (such as electric kettles, coffee makers and fridges) and 10% an internet-connected camera. In many cases, the Smart TV forms the central entertainment device of the home – allowing families to relax and enjoy watching a movie together over the weekend. Internet-connected appliances, such as a fridge that monitors food content and grocery lists, can assist in making life more convenient, and internet-connected camera devices, like that of a baby monitor or home security systems, are considered essential when living in high-crime regions, and are therefore used by many families for safety and security purposes.
But did you know that these devices can be a cybersecurity threat to your family? This is due to possible vulnerabilities in their software, a lack of elementary security measures and encryption of internet connection. Imagine if a cybercriminal was able to steal money from you, using your Smart TV, or access your fridge or home security cameras to spy on your family’s every move – quite a scary thought, isn’t it?
And given that there is a flood of appliances today which could be connected in the home – and some are connected without a second thought as to whether or not security of such a device is necessary – safety has to become a concern. The same survey shows that 66% of respondents show a high concern for the physical security of their families, yet only 38% expressed high concern for the security and protection of such internet-connected devices from viruses or hacking, while 28% are not concerned at all.
While the connected home can certainly make your life easier, there should not be a misconception around the fact that connected devices in the home are not vulnerable to dangers from cybercriminals. As a result, they need to be adequately protected.
Kaspersky Lab offers the following tips to secure the connected home:
1. Create strong, unique passwords for all connected devices. A strong password usually should contain a combination of upper- and lower-case alphabetic letters and numbers, should be at least 15 characters long and shouldn’t include easy-to-guess words. Always change default passwords on any device purchased – 30% of respondents to Kaspersky Lab’s survey indicated that they do not change this default password, which can open their connected home up to infection. You should also change the password if ever you suspect the device may have been compromised.
2. Before buying a connected device, search the internet for news of any vulnerabilities within that device (especially for home security systems, baby monitors and Smart TVs). Also, check with the vendor to see if they provide updates for the device, to fix any future vulnerabilities that might be discovered.
3. When choosing connected devices for a more convenient lifestyle, consider the security risks. If your home is the place where many items of material value is stored, it is a good idea to choose a professional alarm system that can replace or complement the existing app-controlled home alarm system – or set up the existing system in such a way that any potential vulnerabilities would not affect its operation.
4. When choosing a device that will collect personal information about your family, such as a baby monitor, ask yourself if you really need it to be connected to the Internet. If it’s possible to disable this functionality, and you don’t need it, then switch it off. For example, it may be wise to choose the simplest RF-model TV on the market, one that is only capable of transmitting an audio signal without internet connectivity.
*Kaspersky Lab worked with Associated Media to run an online survey asking questions related to the connected home and the security of connected devices