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Can an Antivirus Protect your IoT Devices in 2021?

Is your fridge sending your personal information to criminals? Is your kettle a part of a massive DDoS attack on your bank? While it may sound ridiculous, these problems have already become a reality.

While connected devices are handy to have – it’s great that you can unlock your doors or turn the coffee machine on with your smartphone – what if these objects could be used against you? As they’re all connected to the internet, they’re open to being hacked.

And as they’re all in your home and may even control your home security, the fact that they can be exploited by hackers is a scary thing.

But what exactly is the Internet of Things and how can it impact you?

Let’s start with explaining a few things.

What is the Internet of Things?

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a collection of everyday objects that are able to connect to the Internet and communicate with each other by sending and receiving data. These could include anything with an on/off switch, such as cellphones, smart coffee machines, kettles, washing machines, lamps, headphones, Wi-Fi thermostats, baby monitors and fridges.

In essence, the IoT is a huge network of connected “things”.

Why do I Need to Protect my IoT Devices?

Experts at IHS Technology, a global information provider based in London, predict that by 2025, there will be as many as 75 billion connected IoT devices. With the smart home revolution and the rapid growth of connected devices, the list of new vulnerabilities for hackers to exploit is continuing to grow, and they’re very motivated to do so.

IoT Botnets

While your kettle may not have enough processing power on its own, combined with millions of unsecured devices like cameras, routers, and household appliances, it’s known as a “botnet.” These botnets hold enormous computing power that can be manipulated by hackers.

For example, in 2016, an army of CCTV cameras formed a botnet called “Mirai” that left much of the Internet inaccessible on the United States’ east coast. According to Kaspersky Lab research, the distribution of multipurpose remote access tools (RATs) that affect IoT has nearly doubled in recent years (it went from 6.5% in 2017 to 12.2% in 2018).

IoT Devices are Extremely Vulnerable

The connectivity that makes smart devices work is what makes them exploitable.

Sadly, manufacturers don’t always take extra steps to secure these devices from hacks. IoT products are developed with convenience and automation in mind; the embedded firmware that are running these devices is often vulnerable, with limited or no built-in security.

In fact, the Mirai botnet happened because manufacturers used easy-to-guess passwords across the board. Researcher Brian Krebs reported that Mirai was able to take over 500,000 devices by guessing the default password from a list of only 61 combinations. These included passwords like “admin” and “12345.”

These extremely weak login credentials were the only layer of protection between hackers and the device. These devices can be used to spy, steal personal information, and even gain physical access to your home.

If you cannot rely on manufacturers to secure your devices, what can you do to protect yourself? We’ll show you some of the best solutions that smart homes and IoT devices desperately need.

Can I use an Antivirus?

If you’re used to relying on an antivirus for protection, you probably think that it can protect your Internet of Things (IoT) devices as well. After all, industry-leading antivirus software protects your PCs, laptops, and smartphones from cybercriminals… why not the rest?

Unfortunately, that isn’t necessarily the case. IoT devices such as smart TVs, Internet security cameras, Wi-Fi thermostats, and baby monitors, don’t possess enough computing power to run an antivirus or simply don’t allow you to install it.

Therefore, the key to protecting IoT devices is to monitor for threats at the network level through deep packet inspection (examining and filtering network traffic), intrusion prevention (identifying and dealing with potential threats), and anomaly detection (monitoring for unusual or suspicious events).

The Best Software for Protecting IoT Devices

Luckily, major antivirus vendors such as Bitdefender, Avast, F-Secure and Norton have rolled out innovative IoT security solutions to do just that. With their ability to monitor network traffic and encrypt data, they’re able to protect the growing number of connected devices in your life.

Here’s what they do and why you need them.

1. Norton Core

  • Multi-layer security for your network and IoT devices
  • Easy to manage through your smartphone
  • Superior performance: up to 2.5 Gbps
  • Includes one year of Norton Security

Your router is probably the least secure device in your home. When it comes to your home network, your router is like a front door. It connects all your IoT and web devices together; if hacked, no device in your home is safe. Even with a strong password, hackers can find a vulnerability at another entry point to your network, such as an unsecured IoT device.

Norton Core is a secure Wi-Fi router that protects your network and IoT devices against cyber threats. It combines military-grade techniques used in Symantec high-end enterprise products such as deep packet inspection, intrusion detection, comprehensive data encryption, along with Symantec’s Global Intelligence Network to defend against malware, viruses, and other threats.

Norton Core is automatically updated against the latest threats and is extremely easy to set up and use. Core examines your connected devices, identifies vulnerabilities, and defends your IoT devices from threats.

The Core app makes security easy. It monitors data from your connected home and if there’s a problem, Core will alert you immediately with solutions, insights and tools.

Norton Security (see user reviews) comes with the device, and it’s one of the strongest antivirus products on the market.

See Norton Deals >>>

2. Bitdefender Box

  • Stops network-based attacks
  • Protects IoT devices
  • Comes with Bitdefender antivirus
  • Doesn’t slow down network performance
  • Works with your Wi-Fi router
  • Advanced parental controls

The new Bitdefender Box is great at shielding your devices from attacks at the network level.

Simply plug the Box into your existing router and it will immediately begin monitoring Internet traffic, inspecting all data entering or leaving your network, and stopping brute-force password guessing attacks.

It also adds a firewall, acting as the home equivalent of a heavy-duty enterprise security device. Its exploit protection capabilities protect against advanced attacks like SQL injection (a code injection technique that attacks data-driven applications), path traversal (taking advantage of insufficient security validation), and local file inclusion.

Every time a new device connects to the network, you get an alert. You can also conduct a network-wide device-vulnerability assessment to see if there are any issues. If an anomalous behavior is detected, the Box shuts down traffic to keep sensitive information from leaving the network.

The Box itself is secured with encrypted updates designed by Bitdefender (see user reviews) to prevent any malicious updates from loading. It features advanced parental controls so parents can set online time limits for their children, filter sites by age, or “pause” the Internet.

The included Bitdefender Total Security software is one of our top-rated antivirus products, with a full suite of extra tools like a password manager, a secure browser and file encryption.

See BitDefender Deals >>>

3. F-Secure Sense

F-Secure Sense is a Wi-Fi router that doubles as a security appliance to simultaneously protect any number of devices connected to your local network.

By combining a router, security appliance, and local malware protection software, F-Secure Sense adds multi-layered protection for your network. When combined, these multiple layers protect all devices, regardless of whether an antivirus is installed on them.

While it may lack advanced features like parental controls, a guest LAN, and Wi-Fi protected setup, it’s affordable price makes F-Secure Sense perfect for an apartment or small home.

Aside from protecting your network and IoT devices, it includes a year’s antivirus subscription (see user reviews) to protect up to 25 laptops, PCs, and mobile phones.

See F-Secure Deals >>>

The Bottom Line

Due to computing power limitations, IoT devices cannot be properly protected with a free antivirus. You need multi-layered protection that combines strong malware protection with bullet-proof network security.

Luckily, major antivirus giants such as Norton and Bitdefender have developed innovative ways to make enterprise-grade network security available for your home.

In order to safely secure your network, and therefore the devices in your home, you need advanced technology that  constantly monitors your network traffic, uses a firewall to block unauthorized access, encrypts your data and keeps you informed and up to date on any threats.

Many of these technologies will include other extras, such as password managers and parental control tools to keep your kids safe online and subscriptions to an antivirus so you’re even better protected.

About the Author

Sophie Anderson
Sophie Anderson
Cybersecurity researcher and tech journalist

About the Author

Sophie Anderson has spent the last 10 years working as a software engineer for some of the biggest tech companies in Silicon Valley. She now works as a cybersecurity consultant and tech journalist, helping everyday netizens understand how to stay safe and protected in an online world.