Privacy Bee Blog: Smart home hacks

Smart home hacked? Do these 7 things right now

Can smart homes be hacked? Yep! Smart home devices are less secure than you think: 40.8% have at least one vulnerable device in their smart home.

Smart home hacked? It’s fairly common and can lead to some frightening encounters: A Wisconsin couple was terrorized for over 24 hours, as a hacker cranked up their heat and taunted them through their camera and speakers.

Like any device connected to the internet, your smart home is vulnerable to cyberattacks. You’ve got to be smart and stay safe, protecting your smart home in the same way you protect other devices on your home network.

What to do if your smart home is hacked

A smart home is futuristic and provides many benefits, such as the ability to control lights, speakers and even kitchen appliances from your smartphone. You can also set “scenes” that automatically adjust all lights to reflect a specific mood.

Here are all the ways smart devices can be hacked

But it also puts a lot of your home’s core functions into a centralized hub that can be smart home hacked. A scary thought! If you suspect that your smart home is under attack, first, don’t panic! It’s invasive but fixable. And this experience should give you more knowledge about preventing hacks in the future.

1. Turn off your smart hub

Your first step in any smart home hack is to turn off your smart hub. Since your devices route through this centralized hub, it’s the quickest way to stop a hack in progress. Without access to the hub, hackers have less access to the rest of your smart home devices.

For those that only have a few connected devices which don’t connect to a smart hub, skip to the next step.

2. Reset all of your smart devices

Next, turn off each device by unplugging them from the wall. This will ensure a hard reset and make it much harder for the hacker to access. While performing a hard reset doesn’t necessarily guarantee that the attacker is bumped, it’s worth trying.

Then, reboot all of your smart and connected devices one by one, with your smart hub rebooting last. If you need guidance, check online with your smart device manufacturer on how to hard-reset the devices.

3. Secure your router

Now that you’ve stopped access to individual devices, let’s turn to the likely culprit: your router. A hacker can do a lot of damage, such as controlling individual smart devices, with access to your network’s router.

To secure the router, consult the manufacturer or the router manual. It can get a little complicated but you should most definitely do a few key technical things:

  • Changing your password
  • Disable any unused or unprotected networks (like “Guest”)
  • Disabling UPnP and WPS
  • Enabling the firewall
  • Updating the router’s firmware

It may also be time to purchase a new router, since old routers have dated security protocols that are more vulnerable to intruders. If your router is more than 5 years old, buy a new one!

4. Change your passwords

Compromised passwords are one of the most common reasons for hacking attacks. Now is also the time to change the passwords for each device. That means you may need to login in to each device’s controller app (or your online account).

Gentle reminder: always follow these password best practices when creating new ones. To make sure that you never forget a password — and easily generate unique ones for new accounts — download one of the best password management apps. It will you sane, safe and organized!

It’s also recommended to configure two-factor authentication (2FA) for all of your accounts. This adds an extra layer of security, as you’ll have to enter a temporary code that only you can access on your smartphone. This keeps you data and devices protected — when done right, it’s nearly ironclad security!

Not sure how to set up 2FA? Head over to our list of the top multi-factor authentication apps to find out!

5. Isolate and update devices

To stop hackers from gaining access to your smart home devices, you also want to isolate those devices on a separate network away from your main WiFi network. This creates a protective barrier between your primary network and your smart home devices. That way, if a hacker gains access to your computer, it’s a bit harder for them to jump right into your smart home system. You can do this physically or virtually, as almost all the routers offer that functionality.

You should also make sure that all of your smart home devices are updated. These “firmware” updates keep your devices protected from known cyberattacks. So, if you don’t update to the latest firmware, you’re vulnerable!

Most people just ignore the latest security updates and leave them on the “download later” option. Don’t do that! Whenever possible, choose the “automatic updates” option. For devices that require manual updates, set a reminder to check for updates every 3 months or so. This is a home security best practice, as updating your devices with the latest security features will keep your system safer.

6. Monitor the network

There are some unique and specific devices available in the market which monitor any network vulnerabilities such as Bitdefender Box 2. It protects all of your smart devices from malware and hackers. Devices like these can run with your networking kit or as a replacement.

Additionally, adding a firewall can also help to monitor and manage all of your smart devices, along with who is accessing them. Firewalls can be created in your router admin interface, so refer to those instructions to get that done!

7. Do your homework!

Lastly, you must be very careful when adding new devices to your home network. Do your research to be sure that the device has world-class security and is supported by a team that will keep updating the software. Otherwise, you may buy something that will eventually be unsupported, leaving your home network vulnerable to smart home hackers.

A company that regularly updates its software will patch any vulnerabilities and quash any bugs that would leave your system open to unwanted intruders.

Research everything on the internet, especially security features. If any device is offering a poor security feature, then consider it a red flag. And if the device you’re considering doesn’t let you change its password (or isn’t protected by one), then it’s a hard pass!

With your smart home hacked, you have a chance to set thing up right from here on out. You’re only as good as your weakest link, so don’t ever bring a less-than-stellar device into your home. And if this seems like a lot to handle, put it in the hands of a consultant or advisor like Best Buy, who can guide you in your device selection, network setup and ongoing protection.

Data breaches suck. It’s best to be proactive. Here’s more on protecting your data privacy — before anything bad happens.

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