How To Keep Your Smart Home Devices Secure & Private?

2023-08-11

deebot t20 omni smart vacuum and mop mopping a marble floor of a kitchen

The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to connecting physical objects to the internet so that they can communicate with each other and with us. These objects can be anything from your TV, lightbulb or even your fridge, fitted with software that allows them to collect and exchange data.

For example, picture your alarm clock waking you up in the morning and then sending a signal to your coffee maker to start brewing a pot of coffee as your bedroom blinds automatically open. Or, imagine a smart thermostat that learns your temperature preferences and adjusts the temperature in your house automatically.

Convenience is the name of the game in creating a ‘connected home’ where things can be controlled remotely. However, with this increased connectivity comes smart home privacy and security concerns.
 

Smart Devices And Privacy

 

Ironically, there’s an entire category of IoT devices revolving around home security, such as smart doorbells, alarms and locks. We worry about security from home invaders, but what about the integrity of the home control devices already inside our house?

These Wi-Fi connected gadgets gather information about users, their preferences and their movements to provide a personalized experience of comfort. But data breaches, cyber-attacks and unauthorized data collection are all potential risks in smart homes. Put simply, smart home privacy concerns can be related to what manufacturers do with your data (whether it’s images of a person’s likeness or personally identifiable information (PII) like a home address or phone number) and how vulnerable it is to falling into the hands of hackers with malicious intent. In this guide, we’ll explain step by step how to ensure smart home cyber security.
 

How To Secure Smart Home Devices

  

Some smart devices come with enhanced security features, like data encryption, cameras with privacy shutters or push notifications when a new device accesses your home. But even if they do, users must still do their part – what some call implementing “digital hygiene” – to secure their smart home devices.

Changing default passwords and using strong, unique passwords

The first step in implementing smart home device privacy is foundational. If you’re provided with a default password when opening an account, make sure to change it into a strong password that you haven’t used on another platform. A strong password usually looks like one with a mix of capitalized and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols that don’t contain personal information like loved one’s names.

Securing the home network and router

Your home network and Wi-Fi router are the gateways to your smart devices. Protect them from hackers by changing the router’s default username and password, regularly updating the router’s firmware and enabling WPA3 encryption on the Wi-Fi network, if available.

Create a dedicated Wi-Fi network for smart devices

At the very least, homeowners should be securing their home Wi-Fi. But a way to further reinforce smart device privacy is to segregate smart devices on a separate Wi-Fi network to isolate them so that even if your laptop, mobile phone or virtual assistant like Google Home is compromised, the damage doesn’t spread to the devices on the other network. You can create ‘guest networks’ on most routers for just this purpose.

Keeping firmware and software up to date

The next step in preventing smart home data collection is to keep your firmware and software (which just refer to embedded software and programs, as opposed to the actual machinery or hardware) up to date, as these updates often include security patches. The easiest way to ensure your devices are equipped with up-to-the-minute updates is to enable automatic updates.

Enabling two-factor authentication

Two-factor authentication (TFA) and multi-factor authentication (MFA) add extra layers of security by requiring two or more types of identification. Examples are fingerprints or one-time security code sent to your phone. These make it harder for unauthorized users to access your devices, even if they find out one password.

Use next-generation firewall

Another measure to secure smart home devices is to implement a next-generation firewall, which compared to traditional firewalls can protect against advanced threats and contain additional features like application control.

Regularly review connected devices

Try to make a habit of checking the list of devices connected to your Wi-Fi network and removing ones that you don’t recognize. This can also help keep you aware of devices that need updating.

Consider using a VPN

If you don’t already have one, a Virtual Private Network (VPN) encrypts your Internet connection, making it harder for third parties to intercept your data. This is especially important when it comes to camera-equipped smart devices looking into your home, like certain robot vacuums or pet cams. But note that not all smart home devices support VPNs.

Disabling unnecessary features or permissions

The next few points will have to do with examining manufacturer access and handling of your data. Smart devices are typically controlled using an accompanying app. Check the app’s security permissions and disable any features or permissions that you don’t use. This will minimize the points of entry that external sources could use to access the device.

If a particular device doesn’t need Wi-Fi access to run properly (e.g., smart lights or smart garage door openers connected to your phone or smart home hub v via Bluetooth), disable its Wi-Fi connectivity.

Reviewing privacy settings

The next method to ease smart home data collection concerns is to adjust the privacy settings (including customizing data sharing options and third-party integrations) on your intelligent devices. The user has control over what data is shared with 1) the manufacturer and 2) third parties. Remember that the fewer data you share, the less is out there for hackers to potentially steal.

Understand what data is being gathered

In a similar vein, examine what type of data about you the manufacturer is gathering. Companies are usually required to disclose this information in their online terms of service and privacy policies. And if you find you’re not comfortable with the data collection, depending on the country you’re in, you can opt out of certain sharing – or consider alternative products.

Factory reset devices before passing on

Lastly, to ensure the security of smart home devices extends past the time you own them, if you pass on a smart device to another person, make sure to perform a factory reset. This typically accomplishes two things: it removes your data from the device as well as from the companion app.
 

How ECOVACS Ensures Smart Device Security

 

Since 1998, ECOVACS has been setting industry firsts for innovation in service robotics. Faced with users’ smart home privacy issues, ECOVACS protects user privacy and data security through multiple facets in our range of robots, from DEEBOT robotic vacuum cleaners to WINBOT window cleaning robots.

All data transmitted from DEEBOTs to smartphones are encrypted and stored securely on the ECOVACS server. ECOVACS never shares images or videos with third parties. Vacuum robots with built-in cameras have indicator lights that signal to users that the camera is on, and the Video Manager feature on the app is password-protected. Furthermore, the DEEBOT X1 line and ECOVACS HOME app were the world’s first smart vacuum hardware and software to receive the TÜV Rheinland Privacy and Safety certificate.

 

FAQ

 

What are the least secure smart devices?

The least secure smart home devices are those with outdated software and firmware, not protected by unique passwords, being used on Wi-Fi networks without strong firewalls, and with all security permissions enabled without user checking and necessary activation.

How vulnerable are smart home devices?

Smart home devices can be extremely vulnerable to data breaches or outsider hacking without the appropriate security features (installed by manufacturers) and appropriate digital hygiene practised by smart home system users.

What can you do to secure your smart home devices?

While some smart home devices come with data security protocols or features, it’s essential (especially for those opting to use smart devices with cameras) for device owners to erect extra security measures like a secure Wi-Fi router, multi-factor authentication and updated software when securing smart home devices.

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