During a period from late December 2013 through January 2014, the security firm Proofpoint reported the first cyber attack on the Internet of Things. They confirmed that hackers broke into over 100,000 everyday gadgets in the US. The items included televisions, routers, multi media centers and at least one smart fridge. Ridiculous as it may sound, the computer in the fridge was hacked and it started spewing out malicious emails.
The most concerning aspect of this attack was that it appeared to be very easy for the hackers to take control of these items. Anything with an internet connection is vulnerable, but what precautions can you take to protect your smart devices from siege?
CORRECT SET UP
It appeared that many of the devices that were hacked were not set up properly making them very easy to breach. Read the instructions, communicate with the manufacturer and get help if necessary so your set up is correct.
CHECK OUT THE SECURITY FEATURES
Make a point of always checking out the privacy policies and security features of any new smart gadget before you purchase. If there is anything you don’t understand, contact the manufacturer and don’t be afraid to ask questions.
Many homeowners were still using the default password that came with their devices. Once you start thinking of these devices as computers, you realize that you need just as secure a password as you use for your banking.
USE A PASSWORD MANAGER
If you are not using a password manager, the chances are that you use the same passwords across different websites. This is a potential risk. Once one site it breached, this could expose all your supposedly secure logins. It is very difficult to create and remember a strong and unique password for every site.
KEEP YOUR DEVICES UPDATED
Make sure your devices are always updated with the latest software as the updates often include new security patches.
MyPermissions provides convenient links to the permissions pages at major services, letting you do a quick review on the rights you’ve granted and allowing you to revoke some of them if necessary. The MyPermissions app, which is free for IOS and Android, alerts you when an app gains access to your personal information and will prompt you to revoke or accept the permission.
USE A VPN – VIRTUAL PRIVATE NETWORK
The most important thing about a VPN is that it secures your computer’s internet connection to ensure that all the data you are sending and receiving is encrypted and safe from prying eyes. You may need someone with advanced networking skills to set it up.
FIREWALL AND ANTIVIRUS PROTECTION
Particularly if you are using a PC, make sure you have an adequate firewall and antivirus protection. If one of you IoT devices is compromised with malware, your PC could also be infected since it is on the same network.
Remember that cyber criminals are as clever as the people who design smart systems and will start paying attention to the Internet of Things if there is a financial benefit. As consumers, we need to push for security innovations that keep pace with our smart world.