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IoT devices and how to secure them

Did you receive a new “smart” gadget during the holiday season? “Smart devices,” or devices that connect to either other devices or networks using a type of wireless technology, are part of what’s called the Internet of Things (IoT). Simply put, IoT encompasses devices like smart appliances, thermostats, doorbells, activity trackers, televisions, toys, tools, personal voice assistants, or other devices that have the capability to “talk” to the internet or other devices.

IoT devices can make lives convenient and personalized. However, without proper security in place, these devices could collect personal data and potentially be exploited by cyber criminals. Follow these steps to protect your data and privacy:

1.     Before connecting to your home network, ensure that your router is secure. Change the default username, password, and network name and enable encryption. The Federal Trade Commission offers details for securing your home network here: 

2.     Change default passwords on your IoT devices at the time of setup and always create new, unique and long passwords for each device.

3.     Use two-factor authentication (e.g. password in addition to a code sent to your phone), if your IoT device offers it.

4.     Keep devices up to date by installing manufacturer updates and/or certified software updates via your trusted app store.

5.     Check the privacy settings of your IoT devices and limit the device’s access and features to suit your needs. For example, voice assistants may record all conversations; set device settings to only activate or “listen” after entering a PIN. Similarly, delete apps on your smart television that are no longer in use.

6.     Always disconnect unused devices.

Many cyber attacks have been linked to exploiting IoT devices. Protecting your devices and your home network are the first steps to minimizing this risk.