How to keep IoT devices safe from hackers [5 METHODS]

Giles Ensor avatar. By: Giles Ensor
4 minute read
Internet of Things

Home » How To » How to keep IoT devices safe from hackers [5 METHODS]

The Internet of Things (IoT), a term first used by Kevin Ashton in 1999, is the concept that devices that can connect to the internet communicate with each other to create a massive network.

This may well make our lives easier. A very simple example would be your fridge knowing when you are running low on milk, and sending that information to your phone’s shopping list app, so you’ll know to buy milk the next time you go shopping.

However, the problem here is that most people are unaware that there are many potential risks. For instance, if you have a digital camera that connects wirelessly to your computer, your computer is vulnerable to hackers through your camera. In other words, if your camera can be hacked, so can your computer.

5 security measures for IoT devices

While this sounds a little scary, this does not mean that you need to take the drastic step of going around your house throwing away everything you own connected to the internet. Some simple steps will help keep you safe while enjoying all that the IoT offers.

1. Everything connected is a computer

Think of everything you own that is connected to the internet as a computer. You would not connect your computer to the internet without making sure that it had all the most recent updates and software installed to protect it from threats. You must think of your devices in the same way.

Of course, this may not be as simple as downloading an antivirus program. You might need to google your device to make sure you know how to make it safe, but the information will definitely be available somewhere. Which leads nicely on to the next piece of advice.

2. Do your homework about devices

I think it is reasonably safe to say that most of the time, we buy something because we like it and it’s cool, not because it is safe. Unfortunately, that is an attitude we all need to change.

If you want the latest handheld game, phone, or printer, google the name of the product plus vulnerabilities, security issues, or something like that. You will find out pretty quickly if the device you want is worth buying or not.

Internet of Things

3. Check the devices app

This is a really easy one to do and requires no effort at all. Download the app on to your PC, and sign up for it. Use a common password and see what happens. If the app lets you sign up with a ridiculous password, then it says something about what the company thinks about your security. Here are a few of the most common passwords:

  • 123456
  • Password
  • letmein
  • qwerty
  • football
  • iloveyou
  • welcome

Honestly, if your signing up for anything, whether it is software, a website, an online store, something related to finance, or anything really, and it doesn’t require upper and lower case letters, numbers, and special symbols (#, !, @), then you should think twice about using that service. It’s not about the password, as much as the philosophy of the company.

4. Security updates and patches

Check to see when the last update or patch was released, and the couple before that. Your device may not need to have its software updated as regularly as Windows 10, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t need patches at all.

By the way, there is no hard and fast rule about updates (I just looked). However, there is a rule, or at least a strong guideline, that it is best not to skip updates. While it’s fair to say that updates have become increasingly more frequent (and annoying?), skipping updates puts your device at risk.

5. Erasing your personal data

Many people are more than happy to sell their devices or gadgets when they want to replace them. The problem is that we often don’t know how easy it is to erase our personal data, or even if we can permanently erase our data.

Again, my advice here is to google the device you are interested in, plus erasing personal data, hard drive, or something similar, and see what others say. If you read anything worrying about the device you are thinking of getting, think twice about buying it.

Of course, if you are like me and have a huge drawer full of every device you have bought since the 80s, you probably don’t need to bother with this.

Wrapping the Internet of Things up

There is a ton of advice out there on what to do and not do when it comes to the Internet of Things and your safety. However, I think the best advice I have found comes from Morey Haber quoted by PC Mag.

  1. Devices that cannot have their software, passwords, or firmware updated should never be implemented.
  2. Changing the default username and password is recommended for the installation of any device on the internet.
  3. Passwords for IoT devices should be unique per device, especially when they are connected to the internet.
  4. Always patch IoT devices with the latest software and firmware to mitigate vulnerabilities.

If you are considering buying a new device, make sure it, or the company behind it, does those four points, or don’t even consider it. Remember that companies will never measure up to the standards set for them, and that you are ultimately responsible for your own safety online.

Have you had any Internet of Things issues while using your own devices? We would love to hear from you if you have. Feel free to use the comments section below if you have any experiences you would like to share.

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