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Privacy issues and protecting your data while using smart home technology

Published on 26 June 19

In this new and exciting world it seems that everything is becoming smart, our phones, our tv’s and now even our homes. As a real estate agent in NYC I know that Smart homes have become more popular and with the ability remotely change the temperature in your house, tell your lights to come on, or ask your refrigerator if you need to get milk, all from your smart home device or smartphone, it’s not hard to see why.

Part of the technological revolution is the new concept of ‘The Internet of Things.’ which is the concept of introducing intertwined features into our homes by rapidly applying connectivity to everyday appliances and home features. As IoT devices become a part of our daily lives it is important to keep you and your family secure. we need to take a look at the security risks and privacy concerns this smart technology introduces into our lives and use this great new technology to its full potential.

Digital Assistants

Many people have a personal digital assistant like an Amazon Echo or Google Home. These devices analyze your past commands to try to anticipate your needs. Most of these will have your accounts linked to your home to do things like turning off alarms, turning on the lights, or adjusting the temperature. Digital assistants will also have the option to link payable accounts, making them especially important to keep secure by setting passwords and passphrases.

Smart Thermostats

Many homeowners are beginning to opt for a digital thermostat that allows them to control the temperature in their home remotely using an app. Thermostats may not come to mind first thinking about security but digital thermostats do come at a premium, the vendor makes money on data it collects on usage and habits. Smart light bulbs and smart doorbells also allow for great levels of data collection by the manufacturer. Cybercriminals are finding that they can use these devices as pathways into your home network to steal your data and find out more about you.

Gaming Consoles

By far the most popular of IoT pieces is the use of gaming consoles. Sony PlayStation 4, Microsoft Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and many other gaming consoles are in millions of homes across the United States. These devices rely on Internet connectivity to provide different forms of entertainment and include streaming video, interactive gaming, voice chat features, and apps that keep both the system and applications up-to-date. The risk that these consoles provide is that in order to access any of the features, the account owner must provide subscription information including credit card numbers.

Tips for Security

  1. Limit connectivity. If you don’t need to connect a device to the Internet, don’t. If a device isn’t connected, it isn’t as big of a risk.
  2. Isolate IoT devices from other devices on your network by creating a separate Wi-Fi network just for them.Research the privacy, security, and accessibility options that are available for customizing your device.
  3. Use multi-factor authentication (MFA) where you use your traditional password and username combination with the added step of receiving a verification code or providing a fingerprint through a scanner.
  4. Always update your devices and apply patches when available. When selecting which IoT devices to purchase, ensure they offer patching and updates from the manufacturer to keep them up-to-date. Enable auto-updates on any IoT devices that support them.
  5. Setup a separate unique, strong password for every device. Don’t share credentials across devices.
  6. Replace devices when they are no longer supported by the vendor, as security flaws will remain unpatched.
  7. Turn off Universal Plug and Play if it is available on the device. You don’t want the device having this ease of connectivity with so little control.
  8. When requested to provide information to use a device, do not provide personally identifiable information (PII), like Social Security Numbers and dates of birth. If you must share PII to use the device, you may want to consider a different make or model or keeping it off your home network.

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