My washing machine talks to my thermostat. Amazon Alexa talks to my lights and motion sensors talk to my oven. But as these conversations proliferate in my home (and in the cloud), who’s listening in? Big companies? Hackers? More and more consumers are starting to ask these tough questions, demanding that companies provide answers. Or worse— they’re put off by the whole idea and are shying away from purchasing.
Truth: If an appliance connects to the internet, it’s potentially open to hacking. That’s true of any smart device, including the one you carry around in your pocket. Another truth: A weak device could be used to access your network, which gives a hacker access to everything on the network. That means that every time you schedule your coffeemaker to brew, thieves could be picking up valuable information, from your identity to your personal habits. And while your computer is loaded with tech to help protect it against attacks, your appliances may not be.
There’s no need to shy away from these smart devices—you just need to get a little smarter yourself. There are things you can do to stay safer in a connected home. First, create tougher passwords for all your devices— starting with your wireless router, the keys to your cloud castle. If you can remember your password easily, it’s probably not strong enough. Programs like 1Password or Lastpass can generate powerful passwords and safeguard them, like a digital vault.
Second, purchase devices from reputable companies with robust development teams that are constantly updating the firmware and software. Many people think of updates as a nuisance, but updates keep your devices safe from bugs and security breaches. I recently spoke to a wireless router company that bragged they made 29 updates to their software last year—that’s the kind of company you want safeguarding your home.
Finally, if you have “listening” devices like Echo, look for the Mute button, which will stop it from eavesdropping 24/7—chances are you don’t need those devices listening all the time so keep them deaf to your activities until you’re ready to chat.
With these practices, you can rest knowing that your home full of connected appliances just got a little smarter (and safer).