The Internet of Things (IoT) has unquestionably made our day-to-day lives easier and more convenient, allowing us to automate even the smallest tasks – from turning on the lights to cranking up our favorite music.
Yet, these new technologies are not without their downsides; the undeniable benefits and conveniences these internet-based devices provide come with risks. After all, the increased connectivity IoT yields means that our personal data is more vulnerable to external threats, such as cyberattacks. That’s why practicing increased vigilance and adopting additional safety precautions is necessary.
So, how can you ensure a more secure IoT? Here are six steps to follow:
1. Customize Settings
Like most gadgets today, IoT devices come equipped with default settings that users can modify to better suit their preferences and needs. Despite these options, many users choose to leave settings on default for the sake of convenience. Unfortunately, this can make devices more susceptible to external threats and attacks, allowing cybercriminals to quickly gain access to users’ devices without their knowledge.
To prevent this from happening, users should review and customize a device’s settings immediately after adding it to their networks. In addition, users should disable features they won’t use, such as automatic connection with nearby devices or automatic unlocking.
While these automatic features are undeniably convenient, since it saves users the time and effort of manually tweaking a devices’ settings, they can open the door to unauthorized users quickly gaining access to your devices. Turning these features off or setting specific conditions can help increase the level of security for IoT devices.
2. Strengthen Passwords
Most IoT devices these days provide users the opportunity to safeguard their information against external threats by allowing them to set their own passwords. While this is the most basic safety precaution users can adopt, some still opt for convenience over security. That’s why they choose easy-to-guess passwords that they can easily remember or recover. In some cases, they even use the default password.
As mentioned, these convenient passwords make it easier for cybercriminals to infiltrate a network and steal personal information. Choosing a more secure password that includes a unique combination of numbers, letters, and characters can help reduce these risks. Alternatively, users can employ a password manager to avoid repeating passwords and enhance their IoT security. Even better, users can change their password frequently, ideally every 30 to 90 days.
3. Regularly Update Software
IoT companies regularly release updates for their devices to ensure that they work as seamlessly and efficiently as possible. These updates aren’t just for extra features or upgraded interfaces, though; they can also fix any security vulnerabilities or bugs in previous versions.
Continuously updating IoT devices’ software means users will be less vulnerable to external threats when they’re connected to the internet, since many cybercriminals exploit these security vulnerabilities and bugs to illegally access information.
4. Create and Use Guest Networks
Even if users are careful with their own use, they can still risk exposing themselves to online security threats whenever others connect to their homes’ network. After all, not everyone is as careful when it comes to securing their devices against external threats.
In this case, creating a separate network for guests can help protect devices at home. Specifically, guest networks allow visitors to use a home’s Wi-Fi connection without gaining access to information or even the main network.
Users can also create and use a separate guest network that their IoT devices can exclusively use. Doing so adds an extra layer of protection against cybercriminals since they’re less likely to access a user’s personal data, even when one or several devices are compromised.
5. Utilize Multi-Factor Authentication
While having a strong password helps, it doesn’t guarantee complete protection against external threats online. Some cybercriminals may employ workarounds to access a user’s accounts, which is why it’s better to adopt an additional precaution, namely Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA).
MFA will serve as a backup in case a user’s password is compromised. Plus, depending on the severity of the threat, users can customize how complex they want their MFAs to be.
MFA could be as simple as receiving a unique one-time password (OTP) whenever a new device logs into a user’s account or as complex as requiring physical keys to unlock that account. Whatever form it takes, an MFA tailored to users’ specific security needs can make it much more difficult for cybercriminals to compromise their data.
6. Disconnect Devices When Not in Use
Smart devices such as smart speakers are some of the most popular IoT devices these days, offering users convenience and easy accessibility. However, these devices can also pose threats to users. For example, leaving them connected to the internet – even when they’re not being used – leaves users vulnerable to unauthorized persons potentially spying on their actions and private conversations. This, of course, could lead to further security vulnerabilities, especially when it comes to users’ personal information.
While many of these smart devices have indicators that can alert users if someone’s accessing them, it’s still advisable to disconnect them whenever they’re not in use. This will ensure against uninvited guests listening in.
Playing it safe
The IoT has undoubtedly changed how we do things, offering a type of convenience that seemed unimaginable even 15 years ago. Whether it’s menial tasks or more complex processes, IoT devices undeniably play a significant role in today’s modern world. However, as with any new technology, IoT and its devices come with risks, especially when it comes to online security. As such, taking the necessary steps and precautions to safeguard data against external threats online is a must.