Secure Your Connected Home Before Vacation

Connected Life, Security & Privacy

Here’s something our parents never had to think about — securing our connected homes, before, during and after our vacations. By now, you know Hypponen’s Law, which states, “Whenever an appliance is described as being ‘smart’, it’s vulnerable.” This is true, unfortunately, for our “smart” homes.

Sean Sullivan, F-Secure Security Advisor, believes to protect our homes, which are filling up with devices and appliances of all kinds that go online, you have to start securing them much in the way we do our PCs.

“That primarily means using strong passwords on your WiFi network, keeping the software on all of your IoT devices updated and disconnecting the devices you don’t use, the way you should delete programs you’re not using,” he said.

This echoes advice that Interpol, the world’s largest international police organization, issued earlier this year, noting, “All devices which can connect to the Internet – collectively called the ‘Internet of Things’ or IoT – are potentially at risk of a cyberattack.”

The first thing you should do is make sure your modem or router that connects you to the internet is updated and running the latest software.

“This will probably require you to contact your cable company or internet provider. And once your connection is secure, consider partitioning your network.”

You could set up a Wi-FI “guest” network for PCs, tablets and phones that go online and then put all of your other connected devices on a another secure router, like F-Secure SENSE.

Sean also advises only connecting your internet-ready devices or appliances to the web if the net access actually is necessary to improve functionality.

“For instance, the Philips Hue lighting system lets me schedule dimming. That’s useful,” he said. “But I don’t know how WiFi access is going to make your toast taste any better.”

Once your home network is secure for regular use, you can think about how to secure it when you’re away on vacation.

Sean suggests that when it comes to tipping off criminals of your travel plans, you worry more about physical signs of you being away, like mail piling up in your mailbox, than posts on social media.

“If newspapers are stacking up on your door, it doesn’t matter if your smart lights are set on a timer,” Sean said. “Criminals are not going to be fooled.” You can also call your local postal service to see if they will hold your mail while you’re away.

The last step you take before you leave for vacation could be to start pulling out plugs.

“If someone isn’t ‘sitting’ your house or the timed lights don’t need Wi-Fi access to work, I’d unplug the modem, router and any other smart devices, such as your TV, before you take off.”

Of course, if you don’t want to turn off your internet connection if you have a fire or burglar alarm hooked up to it.

We’ve gotten used to being online almost all the time, now it’s time to start thinking about how to make sure our smart homes are at least as secure as the homes we grew up in.

 

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