Technology and wireless connectivity have forever changed households. While we don’t have the personal hovercrafts or jetpacks that we were promised as children, infinite connectivity has brought a whirlwind of “futuristic” benefits and luxuries few could have imagined even a decade ago. But more importantly, it has re-defined how the modern domicile needs to be managed.
Just as with an enterprise network, cybersecurity concerns also impact the home network. The onus is on us, the consumer, to take responsibility for home network security because device manufacturers have not and the risks associated with any data breach is hugely detrimental in the digital age we live in.
A home network is no longer just laptops, tablets, smartphones and printers. The explosion of the Internet of Things (IoT) has resulted in network connectivity to nearly everything. Everyday household items – appliances, cameras, routers, baby monitors, toys, televisions, thermostats, heating systems, etc. are now connected to each other and the internet. But with all this network connectivity comes risk. Why is that and more importantly, what should you do about it?
While many consumers naively assume that developers behind new network-connected equipment must be thinking long and hard about security, in truth they aren’t. To be first to market, design zero-setup equipment, and to deliver a more fulfilling consumer experience, security on many IoT devices is woefully inadequate and often times an afterthought. In addition, many of these network-connected devices leverage bare bone operating systems that have neither the capacity nor processing power for sophisticated anti-virus/malware tools.
It’s common knowledge that home security such as burglar alarms and even door locks are connected to the internet. What many consumers don’t realize is that this creates a huge exposure because the Wi-Fi serves as a new vulnerability to the house’s physical security system. While useful for providing remote access to your next-door neighbors when the dog needs to be let outside, tech-savvy thieves need only to hack the Wi-Fi to gain access to security controls, monitor resident’s daily habits and gain physical access to the house.
IoT devices connected to e-commerce sites is yet another. For example, a smart fridge integrated into somebody’s Amazon Fresh or FreshDirect account (and access to banking/credit card information) allows someone to purchase groceries or other kitchen necessities right from the refrigerator door. This seamless connectivity can be a dream come true for today’s digital consumer, but can also provide a virtual playground from which hackers can gain access to digital bounties via a single vulnerability.
Smart Homes Require Smart Planning and Smart Security
Smart homes are here and are only going to get smarter. In effect, they are no different from a small corporate network, and as such, they need similar levels of planning and security, especially when considering the growing trend of working from home. However, many consumers simply don’t have the desire to run them securely. Most importantly, consumers are not reviewing and taking the necessary security precautions like they do other aspects of their life.
Just like security must become the very fabric of a business, cybersecurity planning – the act of reviewing network-connected devices, where sensitive data is stored and potential security vulnerabilities – must become a critical component of the smart home.
On a yearly basis, my family sits down and does financial planning to review everything from vacations to unexpected expenses. We’ve now included conversations about security planning and ask ourselves some questions such as:
Have I taken an inventory of and actually know all of the various network-connected devices that are in my home? Have security updates been applied to home computers and network-connected devices? Do any outdated devices, such as routers, need to be changed out by the vendor? Are my passwords secure and have I backed up any critical/sensitive information?
These types of questions are what modern-day consumers must be asking, in addition to executing the multitude of security best practices regarding password management, device protection, and backing up sensitive information. Even traditional consumer-focused antivirus software providers now offer multi-layered security devices meant specifically to safeguard home networks, routers and IoT devices.
To truly enjoy the promise of the smart home, it needs to be protected from cyber intruders just as vicariously as it’s protected against physical intruders. Similar to the lessons that leading organizations and name brands have learned in recent years, the best combination is taking proactive measures and leveraging consumer security tools that are easy to implement, easy to operate and does not require a great deal of expertise. It’s time for consumers to become proactive and smarter about home cybersecurity.