The cloud is here, artificial intelligence (AI) is here, work-from-home is here, smart homes, home Internet of Things (IoT), wearable computing are here. In essence, major portions of our daily lives are digitized or dependent on devices, apps and online services. The bad guys initiate cyber threats against devices in homes and the data of people. The smart cybersecurity provider is responding with Intelligent Digital Safety Solutions for the whole home to help us protect our increasingly connected lives from cybersecurity and privacy threats. Why is there so much happening around cybersecurity and online privacy in the home ever since Covid-19? The answer is simple, when there are things of value, bad guys are interested. So, what is it that we have of value?
Digital Assets in the Connected Home
The rapid advancement of technology has transformed the way we interact with our homes. The concept of a connected home, also known as a smart home or home IoT, has gained popularity in recent years. A connected home utilizes various digital assets to automate and enhance daily activities, offering convenience, comfort, and security. These digital assets include devices, apps, online services and all the related data that we supply to them or generate as a result of our use of them.
- Smart Devices:
Smart devices are the foundation of a connected home. These include smart speakers, thermostats, security cameras, door locks, lighting systems, and appliances. These devices are equipped with sensors, processors and internet connectivity thereby allowing users to control and monitor them remotely through smartphone applications or voice commands. Smart devices form the backbone of home automation, enabling users to optimize energy usage, manage security, and customize their living environments according to their preferences.
- Home Network and Internet Connectivity:
A robust home network and internet connectivity are essential for a connected home. High-speed internet access enables seamless communication between smart devices, cloud-based services, and the user’s smartphone or tablet. Routers, modems and network switches provide the necessary infrastructure for reliable connectivity and data transfer within the home. It is important to ensure a secure network setup with strong passwords and firmware updates to protect digital assets from potential cyber threats.
- Cloud Storage and Services:
Cloud storage and services are crucial for managing and accessing digital assets in a connected home. They provide a centralized platform for storing data, settings, and preferences. Cloud-based services enable users to remotely control and monitor their connected devices, receive notifications, and access data from anywhere with an internet connection. Cloud storage also facilitates seamless integration and synchronization across multiple devices, ensuring a consistent and personalized experience for users. While there is great convenience with these kinds of services
- Home Automation Platforms and Hubs:
Home automation platforms and hubs act as the control center for digital assets in a connected home. These platforms, such as Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, or Apple HomeKit, enable users to integrate and manage various smart devices from different manufacturers through a unified interface. They provide a convenient way to set up routines, create automation rules, and control multiple devices simultaneously. Home automation hubs also support interoperability between different protocols like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Zigbee, or Z-Wave, allowing for a broader range of device compatibility.
- Energy Management Systems:
Energy management systems play a significant role in a connected home, promoting energy efficiency and reducing utility costs. Smart thermostats, power monitors, and energy-saving devices allow users to monitor and control energy consumption. These systems provide insights into usage patterns, enable remote temperature adjustments, and automate energy-saving routines based on occupancy or predefined schedules. By optimizing energy usage, digital assets in a connected home contribute to a sustainable and eco-friendly living environment.
- Your and your family’s data
This is huge and probably the most ignored. A lot of people are very aware that big tech companies collect a lot of data about us every single day and have a mood of resignation about it. But it is important to note that it is not just a few big tech companies that collect our data but rather thousands of other companies as well. There are over 3000 known data broker companies alone. Add to that ad networks, tracking companies and more, the footprint of entities that collect our data adds up into the several thousands. Data is indeed the new oil and this oil also powers the knowledge behind the workings of new artificial intelligence models. What is also important to keep in mind is that a lot of these companies are not US based and are foreign owned. Our data is valuable since it allows for companies to predict our behaviors including our buying patterns but also what we will do and want in the future. It also allows companies to manipulate us by targeting our ‘Prime Vulnerability Moments’ and making us engage in purchasing or other actions that we may not have otherwise engaged in. Hackers find this data very useful as well since it can be used to steal our identity, target personalized attacks against us. We are all very familiar with cyber security threats such as phishing attacks. Imagine a phishing attack that targets a specific family member with specific information about a health condition and a specific recent action they took on it. The likelihood that someone will click on the phishing link increases dramatically since the attack email will sound more authentic.
- Our money
These days we bank online, we shop online, we manage our credit cards online. Add to that the fact that for those who own crypto currencies, some of their money is online as a digital asset as well!
Threats to our digital assets
Cybersecurity and privacy threats abound in the connected home and new threats are emerging every day. For example, researchers have uncovered techniques where inaudible sounds emanated on a website that someone might be browsing in a home may be used to activate capabilities or hidden commands in smart phones and smart speakers. When we have a connected home, irrespective of the number of devices, apps or websites we use, we effectively live in a glass house. The devices in our homes can be targeted with malware through backdoors that may exist in the apps that manage them or through other vectors of cyberattack such as phishing. The malware can then be used to exfiltrate data about us or be used to collect additional information about us or to enable the attackers to repurpose our devices to be used as pawns in their nefarious activities. Home based devices have indeed been used to launch attacks on other corporations and governments. Privacy threats from cyber criminals are rampant which can be extremely creepy. For example, hackers may access cameras that are on smartphones, home security cameras, or televisions and watch you in your private setting. In other instances, they exfiltrate data in order to steal our identity or our financial resources. Large companies already have access to our personal data but our behavioral data is collected thousands of times a day by hundreds of companies and shared with third parties. These happen through lots of tracking technologies that are embedded into our devices, apps and the websites we use such as trackers, pixels, beacons, ad networks, etc. Protecting this glass house that we live in requires protection against cybersecurity threats and privacy violations by companies.
Connected Home Protection Strategies
All hope is not lost. There are basically two main elements that are needed to protect our digital assets in our home: a good level of cyber hygiene that everyone in your family practices and whole home Intelligent Digital Safety solutions to protect every device, app and online service used in the home from both cybersecurity and privacy threats.
Here are some essential cybersecurity strategies to safeguard your smart home against these cybersecurity risks:
1. Secure Your Network:
Start by securing your home network, the backbone of your connected home. Change the default usernames and passwords on your routers and other network devices to unique, strong passwords. Enable encryption (WPA2 or WPA3) on your Wi-Fi network to prevent unauthorized access. Regularly update your router’s firmware to ensure you have the latest security patches. Consider using a separate network for your smart devices to isolate them from your main network and protect your personal data.
2. Use Strong, Unique Passwords:
Use strong, unique passwords for all your smart devices, including smart speakers, cameras, social media accounts, and door locks. Avoid using common passwords or easily guessable information such as birth dates or pet names. Consider using a password manager to generate and securely store complex passwords for your devices.
3. Keep Firmware and Software Updated:
Regularly update the firmware and software of your smart devices. Manufacturers often release updates that address security vulnerabilities and provide enhanced protection. Enable automatic updates whenever possible to ensure you’re using the latest, most secure versions of your device’s software.
4. Implement Multi-Factor Authentication:
Enable multi-factor authentication (MFA) whenever available for your connected devices and related accounts. MFA adds an extra layer of security by requiring additional verification, such as a fingerprint scan or a unique code sent to your mobile device, in addition to your password.
5. Secure Your Smart Devices:
Take precautions specific to each smart device you own. Disable unnecessary features, such as remote access if you don’t need it. Change default settings and review privacy options to limit the data collected by the device. Regularly check for firmware updates and install them promptly.
6. Secure Your Mobile Devices:
As your smartphone or tablet likely serves as the primary interface for controlling your smart home, secure it with a strong password or biometric authentication. Keep your mobile devices’ operating systems and apps updated to protect against known vulnerabilities.
7. Network Monitoring and Security Solutions:
Consider using network monitoring tools or cyber security solutions designed for connected homes. These systems can detect and block suspicious activities, provide insights into network traffic, and offer additional layers of protection against cyber threats.
Obtaining a critical infrastructure to protect your connected home from cybersecurity threats is crucial in today’s digital landscape. All should take security measures that consist of a combination of cyber hygiene and protection tools will go a long way towards increasing the cost of attack and make you a less easy target. Stay vigilant, stay informed, and prioritize implementing robust cybersecurity solutions to enjoy the benefits of a connected home with peace of mind, while preventing threat actors from impacting your privacy and safety.