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Every new device you introduce into your smart home is another device that can be attacked. You can protect your smart home with simple steps like locking your router and taking proper care of the gadgets in your smart home.

Start with your router

Modern wireless wi-fi router close-up
Studio Proxima / Shutterstock

Most smarthome devices require Internet access to function properly. While not all devices connect directly to the Internet (such as Z-Wave lamps), those that don’t typically connect to a hub or other device to access the Internet. So in many ways the single most important point of vulnerability is your router.

And securing your router should be your first step. You must change the default administrator password used to access the router. Update your router firmware if it is out of date and enable encryption. Always use a complex password that is unique to your Wi-Fi router. With a standard (non-mesh) router, you can do all of this through the router’s web interface. All you need is to find your router’s IP address. Network routers, on the other hand, do not have a web interface. You will make changes from the application.

If your router manufacturer no longer offers new firmware, consider replacing it. While we usually say that most people don’t need a Mesh router for their homes, smart homes do benefit from them. You get the best coverage for all your Wi-Fi devices, and most Mesh routers automatically update firmware and offer additional security services as a subscription.

RELATED: Protect Your Wireless Router: 8 Things You Can Do Right Now

Use unique passwords for each device

Dashlane interface showing password health.
Password managers aren’t just for websites; they have other useful features as well. Dashlane

Many SmartHome devices require a password during setup. This usually involves downloading the app and creating a user account. In some cases, such as when using Z-wave lamps, you can create a single account for the hub to use with multiple devices.

Each device you create an account for must have a unique complex password. If you reuse passwords across SmartHome services and devices, you risk a single compromised block, which will introduce additional points of vulnerability in your home.

If you haven’t already, consider using a password manager. Services like LastPass or Dashlane can help you create and keep track of long, complex passwords. You might think that password managers are just for storing website credentials, but you can store any password in them. In addition, you can store secure notes, files, bookmarks, and more in the password manager.

RELATED: Why you should use a password manager and how to get started

Enable two-factor authentication wherever possible

Open lock with key inserted.
dnd_project / Shutterstock

Two-factor authentication is an extra layer of security beyond a simple password. After two-factor authentication, after you enter your password, you will give additional proof of identity. Typically, this comes in the form of a code that is either randomly generated by the phone app or sent to you via text or phone call.

Unfortunately, offering two-factor authentication isn’t very common on SmartHome devices, but that’s starting to change. Nest and Wyze now offer two-factor authentication. Security cameras are the devices most likely to have two-factor authentication and you should use it with them. As one couple found out, instead of trying to break through your router, it might be easier for an attacker to use stolen credentials to log in to the accounts associated with your SmartHome devices. 2-Step Verification can help prevent this.

Check the apps associated with your smart devices, where possible, turn it on. We recommend combining two-factor authentication with an authentication app such as Google Authenticator for iOS and Android.

CONNECTED: What is two-factor authentication and why do I need it?

Update the firmware on all your devices regularly

Just like your router, you should update the firmware for all your SmartHome devices regularly. Firmware is essentially software built into your hardware, it defines the features and capabilities of your hardware. Manufacturers regularly find problems and fix them, and add new features along the way.

Generally, you can update most SmartHome devices through the app. This includes Z-wave and ZigBee gadgets that you connect to a smart hub. You will check the Smart Hub app for these updates.

If the manufacturer no longer supports the SmartHome device you installed, it should be replaced as soon as possible. If you are unsure, check the manufacturer’s website.

RELATED: What is firmware or microcode and how can I update my hardware?

Buy only from well-known, well-known companies

Amazon search results show over 20 smart forks.
So many smart plugs.

If you search Amazon for smart plugs, you’ll find dozens of options from dozens of manufacturers. Some of them you may have heard, many will probably be completely unfamiliar. It may be tempting to go for the cheapest option that promises the features you want, but you should research the company first.

Most of the SmartHome devices you bring into your home communicate with servers in the cloud. The question is «who owns these servers?». When you look at a newly released product from an unknown manufacturer, it’s impossible to know exactly where it interacts until someone has tested it. Unless you’re a security researcher who enjoys this challenge, you probably shouldn’t be a guinea pig.

Also, the biggest problem with smart homes is that your devices can stop working. The company may go bankrupt, disappear, or decide to switch to a new product and end support.
Maintaining a large, well-known company does not guarantee that this will not happen, as seen when Lowe killed Iris. But what you get is a track record to learn from. Looking at a company’s history, you can see how viable it is and whether the company maintains its products for months or years.

And with a well-established history, you might even see the company handle failure. Wyze, the maker of some of the least expensive SmartHome products you can ask for, ran into an issue where camera traffic came through servers in China. The company explained what happened, why it happened, and how it was going to fix it.

You might not like that it happened at all, but at least you know so you can make an informed decision about whether to buy a product or not, and that’s the point. If you find a product from a new manufacturer, try to find reviews from several sites. If all you can find are Amazon reviews, check Fakespot to see if the reviews are real. Try to find any story you can before making a purchase. If you can’t find history and real reviews, skip the gadget.

CONNECTED: Your Smarthome installation may break and there is nothing you can do about it

Don’t open your SmartHome from public Wi-Fi

Just like you shouldn’t check your bank account from public Wi-Fi, avoid accessing your smart home from public Wi-Fi. Even if you’re sure you’re a legitimate Wi-Fi network, you could potentially open devices in your home to anyone who listens. It’s best not to do anything sensitive on public Wi-Fi networks.

If you need remote access to your home, use an LTE-enabled device (such as a phone) or consider setting up a personal virtual private network (VPN) for a secure connection.

CONNECTED: Why Using Public Wi-Fi Can Be Dangerous, Even When Accessing Encrypted Sites

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