By Praveen Kannan and Anna Strokolyst The Hotspot Shield team believes the internet should be open and secure …
The advent of smart home devices has made our life at home far more convenient. From remotely controlling various appliances with our smartphone to increasing energy efficiency to automatic door locks, the advantages of having a smart home are endless.
However, this convenience can come at the expense of your privacy. Just like anything connected to the internet, smart home devices can be hacked and used to spy on you. Stop this from happening with these simple yet effective countermeasures.
Beware of your smart TV
Last February, Consumer Reports (CR), a non-profit research organization, released a report after conducting a thorough study of smart TVs made by popular brands that are currently in the home of consumers. What CR found was that plenty of smart TVs are very prone to hacking and data collection (many smart TVs have the capability of listening to your conversations for ad purposes). If you own a smart TV, one recommendation made by the organization is that you disable your TV’s internet functions and use it just like any regular TV. It may not sound fun, and you may miss out on some features, but if you’re concerned about privacy, it’s the safest way to go.
Turn off WiFi when you leave
Keeping your Wi-Fi on 24/7 makes it easier for cybercriminals to hack your devices and inject them with spyware. This is why you should turn off your router when you’re not using it, like when you’re out of the house. Doing so will not only minimize the chances of hackers hijacking your systems, but it will also lower your utility bills. And who doesn’t want to save money?
Delete your data
Voice assistant devices like the Amazon Echo and Google Home record all your voice conversations to make it easier for the device’s AI to follow your instructions. So that your data doesn’t get stolen and used against you, make it a point to delete it on a regular basis.
With Amazon’s and Google’s voice assistants, this is easy to do. Just log into your account on the manufacturer’s website or app and delete your data from there. You can also mute the device when it’s not in use so as it isn’t listening to what you say.
Disable your microphone and camera
Your laptop’s microphone and camera can be hacked and used to snoop on your activities at home, without you even knowing. This may sound a bit far-fetched, but it’s way more common than you’d think. Counter these attacks by deactivating your microphone and camera when you don’t need them.
When your camera is not in use, cover it with dark-colored tape. This way, even if a hacker manages to access it (they do so via phishing emails where you click on a spammy link that looks legit, but in fact, it merely installs spyware on your device), they won’t be able to see anything. You can also buy anti-spy laptop camera covers, which only cost a few dollars.
To disable your mic, go to your computer’s list of devices. Look for the microphone, and disable it from there. Just enable it once you need it for voice calls on services like Facetime or Skype.
Update all of your devices
Just like we update our computers to the latest software to help prevent security vulnerabilities, you should do the same for your smart home devices. Remember: these devices were designed to make your life simpler and more convenient; security is often an afterthought. As vulnerabilities are detected (and there are many), new software will be released to patch the issues. Make it a habit to check your apps and download all available updates; in some cases, you may need to visit the device’s website directly and download the firmware from there.
Utilize the protection of a firewall
Smart home products are not like a computer or phone, where you can download and use a VPN directly on the device itself to encrypt the data and shield it from hackers. Smart home devices are connected directly to the internet, which is why it’s imperative you’re connected via a secure Wi-Fi router. These routers contain a built-in layer of protection at the network level, meaning all devices that connect to it (IoT or not) will automatically benefit from its security.
Protect your privacy by adopting a more proactive cybersecurity strategy. Prevention is better than a cure, after all.