FBI Pointers for Smart Homes

Many of us have jumped on new smart devices that make things easier at home.  But as discussed in other posts, IoT devices are still plagued by security issues.  The FBI has weighed in with recommendations for anyone connecting a smart device at home.

  1.  “Your fridge and laptop should not be on the same network,” says the FBI.  Use a separate WiFi network for your laptop, desktop, and smartphones than the one you use for your IoT devices.  That way, if one of your smart devices were hacked, like a security video camera, the hacker could not access more sensitive information on your computer and smartphone.  Plus, a malware-infected computer could not spread the bug to smart devices in your house.
  2.  The easiest way to set up separate networks is to have two routers.
  3. Another option is to set up sub-networks within your main home network using one router.  Network “segmentation” or “isolation” allows router admins on a professional-grade router to create separate virtual networks – a virtual LAN, or VLAN.  As an analogy, think of fish in a pet store.  Because they are in separate tanks, they cannot interact (or eat each other).  A VLAN can include a configuration where devices cannot even see each other – think tinted fish tanks.
  4. If you only have a consumer-grade router, consider setting up a WiFI Guest Network for your smart devices.  Your router may only allow you to create one Guest Network, but that would still help separate your IoT devices from computers and smartphones.
  5. Other advice from the FBI:  Change your smart device’s factory-set password.  A simple Internet search should show you how.
  6. Passwords should be as long as possible and unique for each device.
  7. Many smart devices work through connections to apps on your phone.  These apps could be running in the background with default permissions you never knowingly approved.  Learn what personal information these apps are collecting and limit that if you can (i.e, turn off location services).  Select “no” for privilege or access requests that don’t make sense.
  8. Make sure all of your smart devices are updated regularly for security purposes.  If automatic updates are available, consider turning them on.  Yet a number of IoT devices still cannot be updated easily or automatically.  Check whether the manufacturer can update your smart device with security patches.  Avoid those that can’t.
  9. If you have a smart TV, do a basic Internet search for “microphone,” “camera,” and “privacy” to learn what features your TV has.  Turn off the microphones and cameras if you can, unless you really use them.
  10. If you cannot figure out how to turn off your TV’s microphone or camera, just put a piece of black tape over the camera lens.
  11. Check the privacy policies of the TV manufacturer and streaming services you use.  Figure what data they collect, how they store it, and what they do with it . . . and whether that’s okay with you.
  12. If you have been victimized by cyber fraud, report it to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.IC3.gov.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *