July 16, 2015
Tips for Making Sure Your Connected Home Stays Secure

Author: Hartford Steam Boiler (HSB)

Homeowners need to put measures in place to ensure that home networks and data remain secure; this will be the first line of defense. Each router and firewall manufacturer may have its own customized features, but there are basic steps that should be followed in order to help protect a home Wi-Fi network:

  • Change the default password. All routers / firewalls come with a preset, default password. These passwords are well-known and well-documented. Change each admin password to a strong, complex password that uses upper and lowercase alphanumeric characters, plus at least one “special” character. You should also change any default usernames.
  • Disable guest access. Allowing guests to access your home network may seem like a nice thing to do, but you should be very wary about allowing any non-authenticated users to access your network.
  • Change the default network name. Home routers / firewalls often set the default SSID to something that describes the specific hardware (i.e., Linksys). From a hacker’s perspective, knowing the specific hardware platform that one is attacking makes the job easier. Do not use any personally identifiable information (i.e., “Smith Family”) in your network’s name.
  • Use the WPA2 protocol to secure the network. The older WEP protocol has serious weaknesses and is easily compromised.
  • Firewall everything. Set your router / firewall to restrict all incoming connections. Only open those ports that are specifically needed for a device.
  • Set up a second Wi-Fi network, just for your devices. Separating the two networks ensures that, if a home automation device gets compromised, it will not jeopardize your primary network.
  • Disable remote management. If you do not plan to manage your router / firewall remotely, disable remote management access.
  • Setup a generic e-mail address for device management. Do not use your personal e-mail account for device notifications.
  • Install security software on the mobile devices you use to control your home’s automation. It is often easier to hack a mobile application instead of hacking the device directly.
  • Check for firmware updates on a regular basis and install updates as soon as possible.
  • Limit Internet exposure. If the home automation device doesn’t need access to the Internet, disable its access within your firewall.

What is the industry doing to enhance security?

Devices are more and more frequently requiring PIN codes, two-factor authentication, data encryption and sandboxing in an effort to prevent hackers from breaking into devices. Before purchasing a new Wi-Fi-enabled device for your connected home, make sure you thoroughly research its security features and potential vulnerabilities.

Follow the steps above in order to fortify your connected home against cyber-attacks. And spread the word — share this article with friends and social media connections. The more we improve online security overall, the more we discourage potential hackers.