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  • Writer's picturePacific Sun Technologies

How to better secure your smart home

With the advent of gadgets like doorbell cameras, smart kitchen appliances and data-logging sensors that track your sleep, the smart home now extends to even the most intimate areas of the household. It's great for general convenience, like knowing whether you left the heater on or locked the door behind you, but these connected devices also bring with them a host of security concerns.

We asked Wendy Nather, director of advisory CISOs at Duo Security, for a reality check on what the real vulnerabilities in a smart home are. "The most prevalent threat is automated attacks that are trying to take over devices as they would personal computers, to assemble into a group that can be used for their own purposes," she said. These threats often include denial-of-service attacks, cryptocurrency mining and stealing user passwords.

Fortunately, it's easy enough for anyone to take a few extra steps as you're setting up your smart home to stay protected. With Nather's help, we put together a list of things to consider.

Keep everything up-to-date

You may already be in the habit of keeping your computer and smartphone updated but not always apply the same prudence to smart home devices. We really should, as basically every gadget that's linked to an account and is constantly connected to the internet can be a prime target for botnets, which are typically the cause of those massive denial-of-service attacks.

It might sound like obvious advice to keep your devices updated, but that can be hard when you might not even have access to the firmware in the first place. "Sometimes you can't update things on your own," Nather said, which is why you should learn how to update a new device the minute you bring it home.

One way to stay on top of firmware updates is by regularly checking the manufacturers' websites since it can take a while to push out updates for new vulnerabilities. Create a bookmark folder with links in your browser and check them often (or set a periodic reminder). The companion app for your internet-connected device might occasionally prompt you about updates, but you can usually manually dig into the app settings to check for new software, too. Either way, you should keep the firmware or operating system on all the devices you use in your home up-to-date, whether that's your smartphone, tablet, computer, smart TV, set-top box or game console.