We all read the news about hacked baby monitors, cars or home networks. We all agree that we don’t want strangers to scream at our kids, to get access to the brakes of our vehicles or to our sensitive data on our network drives. Most of us still don’t worry too much about cyber security as nothing comparable ever happened to us.
However with an increasing number of devices and personal data connected to and stored in the cloud it would be important to have as much control over the level of security we desire as possible.
To get control we need to take action ourselves. First of all, we need to take advantage of all the security features of our devices in the best possible way and secondly we will need to buy smart.
There are a few tips and tricks which can easily help to get the most out of built-in security of our devices.
In a first step we need to use passwords. As simple as this sounds the common mistake of using names, phone numbers and reusing passwords for several services is a big one. In order to maintain security you must (not should!) use unique, long and strong passwords. In addition it is a great idea to change them from time to time especially for important or highly sensitive data.
In a second step keeping track of what is connected can help to keep things secure and in order. To do so keep track of what you connect to your smartphone, your home network and to your other devices and hubs. If you are concerned about the security level of for example your smart fridge it might be a good idea not to connect it to the same WiFi which you use for work and to manage your bank accounts. Keeping things separated and organised also helps to get a clear picture on what could have been hacked after you recognise unauthorised access to one of your devices.
The third advice I can give you is also fairly simple – but it’s a good one! Disable the “Admin via Wireless” feature on your router. This will make it very hard for any hacker to mess with the important admin features without physical access to your router. In addition make sure your firewall is turned on.
For extra protection you can further use an encrypted personal VPN service – they are getting cheaper with good services starting at around €10/month.
Last but not least it is crucial to update the firmware of all of your connected devices as this is the only chance for the manufacturer to ensure the software of the products are always up-to-date and can help you to prevent new hacking methods.
Buying smart is a little bit more difficult.
Basically, what you would want to know is which security hardware and software is built-in the product and if it is working with additional security devices and services. This can be achieved easily when buying e.g. a router or a network hard-drive as for those products security is a criteria which most buyers are looking and paying for.
However I have not seen many baby monitor manufacturers using the term “cybersecurity” in their advertisements. A good example on how to do it better is the baby monitor from Withings. The device streams the audiovisual feed from the monitor directly to the user without storing it and keeps track of who accessed the device. Security is also part of the promotional page on the companies website.
For most devices from wearables over connected kitchen appliances to car infotainment systems it is not that easy to get information about built-in security measures. Trusting big brand names is also not an ideal option as even if those companies use stronger security technology, hacking them might be also more lucrative for cyber-criminals as the extra work gets them also access to more devices.
The best advice is to search for products which at least make a statement on protection and in case you need further information to contact the manufacturer.
In conclusion, it is possible to maintain a high level of security by following the above advice.
Further it becomes clear that there is the immediate need to develop and introduce a standardised system which helps customers to get a clear picture of the security features of a product.
Such a system would also be an effective motivation for end-customers to spend the extra money on security features helping manufacturers to justify higher investments in protective security hardware and software.
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