Yesterday, the Mercury News reported on an East Bay family’s “5 minutes of sheer terror.” Hackers cracked into the family’s Nest home security camera, sending a warning of an incoming North Korea missile attack. The family didn’t even know their surveillance cameras had speakers. The panicked couple became suspicious but found nothing about a nuclear attack.
This isn’t the only reported smart home device hack. In November, a hacker asked a child if he ‘took the school bus home’ through their Next camera system. “My son came running out of the playroom and said ‘It’s not daddy talking to me. It’s not daddy,” the woman said. “When my son said ‘Mommy, Mommy,’ the hacker told him to shut up.” The bad guy on the other end of the line even threatened the mother when she entered the room. Though she reported the incident to police, they have been unable to track down the hacker.
How to make smart home devices safer
To be clear, although these hackers attacked a Nest camera, this type of criminal activity could potentially take place with any wireless device.
Use multi-factor authentication
Add an additional authentication factor beyond the password, The extra level could be a security key or a one-time code received by a text. Many websites and apps offer two-step authentication that users can opt into in settings.
Change the password from the factory-default setting
You don’t want your hardware to be breach-able simply because you’re still using a password that’s infinitely guessable like ‘password.’ Many devices come with a default username and password that hackers can easily find online. Be sure to change these on all new devices. Switch to a secure password or passphrase with varied numbers, symbols, and capitalization. And never reuse a old password!
Complete security updates, especially on new devices
Your phone prompts you to complete a software update, but you brush it aside and click “download later.” This can make devices vulnerable to dangerous malware. Most smart home devices don’t update automatically, so once a month users should open the app to their smart refrigerator or smart lightbulbs and check for firmware updates. One urgent Apple update, for example, patched a security flaw that allowed hackers to overtake iPhone and computer devices and use them as spying tools.
Secure your home wireless network
Changing your router name, your network name, or network password won’t convert your home network into a fortress but it will help. Don’t forget to activate WPA2 encryption protocols on your router too. You may also want to set up a guest network to avoid disseminating your main password. Depending on your budget, you could upgrade by subscribing to a VPN service or a mesh system. A mesh makes it easier to see which devices are on your network while distributing it farther in your house.
Keep hackers out of emails and other accounts
On a daily basis, hackers use strategies like phishing scams to steal usernames and passwords. They pose as a bank or other legitimate establishment to trick users. Be wary of any email asking for personal information and always check the sender address. Make sure it’s based at the website the sender claims to be (like an @paypal.com email address versus a deceptively similar location like @paypal.co or @paypalhelp.com).
Use services like ClickAway if you need help
ClickAway technicians can set up devices and security for you if you are unsure how to do this. We can trouble shoot over the phone at 800-960-9030. In home consultations are free.