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Are we being outsmarted by smart devices?

One would be hard pushed to find a home in the UK without a few smart devices inside; from smart plugs and light switches to smart light bulbs, smart speakers, video doorbell systems and smart hoovers. Smart items, or IoT (Internet of Things), are the digitally enabled gadgets we buy to make tasks easier or simply because we enjoy their novelty value. It is estimated that by the end of 2021 there will be 25 billion smart devices in the world.

Smart home device safety

Most of us are unaware though of how much data each of these devices is capturing data about us –  location, times of use, settings – and without the right security in place, they are vulnerable to hacking.

All devices come pre-installed with something called ‘Plug n Play’, which allows smart devices to ‘talk’ to each other and share information.  Should a hacker get into one of your devices, the ‘Plug n Play’ feature means it has instant access to every other device it has been able to connect to and, depending on the kind of information each device stores, data about you, your home and the way you live could be in the hands of a hacker.

Although in recent years brands and products have become wiser to the security issues, upgrading their security, it’s still worth taking into account that devices contain many details about your life and, in the wrong hands could be used to turn off physical security systems, open gates, or simply to know when your home is empty.

Security flaws in older smart devices

While most modern IT systems are able to patch security flaws with regular updates, this wasn’t a priority when many IoT devices were designed, so they may have serious security flaws that a cyber-criminal can exploit. Older devices often have little security.

You would be wise not to assume all devices are completely secure and instead take reasonable steps to protect yourself. You can read more about smart home security on the Government’s National Cyber Security Centre[2] website.


Securing your home and systems if you use smart devices

1.      Keep your internet network and router protected

Update the password on your router, make it a complex password and change it regularly. For instructions on how to do this, click here

2.      Set up separate networks

Most routers will have the ability for you to set up different networks to connect to the internet.  Ideally you need a separate one to connect your smart devices, so that if the worst happens, and a device is hacked, it reduces access to other personal information eg email/files and folders.

3.      Set up Two Factor Authentication (2FA)

The chances of being hacked if you use 2FA are remote. Check to see if your devices give you this option.

Update/secure your systems/laptop/router

  • Change the password on your router (it will have been issued with a factory issued password)
  • Update security patches on your router
  • Ensure your computer/laptop and smart phone are encrypted and password protected
  • Enable the firewall on your router – if it doesn’t have one, buy a new router
  • Use security software from a reputable source on computers and smartphones

Update/secure your smart device

  • Change the password to the device
  • Install security patches on the device
  • Consider turning off some devices
  • Turn off Universal Plug & Play (UPnP) on the device
  • Check the apps linked to these devices – does it ask you for permission to ‘edit router settings?’ If so, beware – this is a potential threat
  • Be aware that cloud storage for information and devices always carries some degree of risk. Make sure you thoroughly understand the privacy settings and have taken all steps to secure your privacy and data.

What Partners& can do to help

We hope this blog will help you understand the security issues and take steps to protect yourself. We are currently working on a package to educate, guide and insure our clients on running a safe smart home. Click here to be sent the package when it is published.