IoT device manufacturers need this nudge to buck up. But the rest of the security is still up to us.

In efforts to secure its dense cyberspace landscape, Singapore’s new Cybersecurity Labelling Scheme could be the most innovative one yet. The new cybersecurity labels will provide consumers with an indication of security levels embedded in smart products. Consumers can then make informed and more secure choices for connected devices.

Smart home technologies are here to stay. We love them for their convenience, adaptability, and of course their novelty, but it has been established that manufacturers of these devices still have a way to go when it comes to making them hack proof.

We, as consumers, must therefore be extremely careful when we install them into our homes. While the original intent of using such devices is to enjoy convenience, automation, privacy, vigilance and connectivity to home improvement features, the irony is that all these benefits can be instantly negated if just one device flaw can lead to loss of privacy and the safety of your loved ones!

With that in mind, here are seven tips for even smarter home cyber safety:

  1. Check permissions upon installing a device 
    Most smart home devices have very generous data permissions set as the default. For each device you install, make sure you take a look through the privacy settings to make sure you are only sharing what you are comfortable with, and not just going with the factory settings on the device or any associated apps. For additional security, you can use a non-identifiable login that is not connected to any other account or service.
  2. Keep an eye out for devices that are always on
    Some devices are in a constant state of readiness, waiting for motion, voice, or other prompts that will make them spring into action. The problem is that this constant state of connectivity can be abused by hackers. Like data permissions, connectivity settings can be turned off or restricted, so be sure to consider this option to make your smart home more secure to ensure you are not constantly under surveillance. Limit the use and location of always-on smart speakers. You should also be extremely cautious where you enable voice-service integrations as these may be accessible from outside of your home.
  3. Maintain your devices religiously
    Update software on all devices and apps every week or at least as regularly as other important lifestyle routines. Manufacturers regularly release software updates with security fixes that improve the security of their devices. Sometimes, even those updates can be full of bugs! Therefore, never consider updates to be too frequent, but rather, read through the list of improvements offered in each update to know what to expect after installing it.

    A very common tactic used by hackers is to wage large campaigns based on known vulnerabilities, attempting to break into any device for which the updates have not been installed. By regularly updating your device software (also known as firmware in some cases) and also being aware if any recent update could be the cause of suspicious symptoms, you can eliminate the risk of hacker attacks as well as manufacturer bugs and inadvertent security lapses.
  4. Tighten identity management
    Never use the default passwords that came with the device at the time of purchase and installation. Change them to passphrases and enable multi-factor authentication for all applications. Limit system administration privileges to force children and visitors into non-“system admin” accounts.
  5. Separate your devices
    Hackers will often use unsecured devices as an “inroad” through which to breach other parts of your home network. Maintaining a dedicated IoT network or a specific IoT-only wireless network at home is a way to prevent hackers from using a hacked device to put their foot in your main door.
  6. Protect your devices
    Use next-gen antivirus solutions on all tablets and laptops and install a firewall between router and devices. Use free OpenDNS services as the protected tunnel which your devices use to connect to the internet.
  7. Create “safe rooms” 
    Consider keeping smart home technologies very restricted, or even entirely, out of those areas in your home you want to keep the safest, whether it is the master bedroom or your children’s bedrooms, or even your bathroom. There is no better way to protect your privacy than eliminating or severely restricting the devices in those “safe spaces” altogether.

Nowadays, the unfortunate reality is: we cannot question “if” something will be hacked, but rather “when” it will be hacked. Such a zero-trust stance is the only way to Stay Safe, Not Sorry!