Hackers Love IoT Products: Here's How to Keep Them Out

The Internet of Things (IoT) has already changed modern society. Without any kind of specialized technical training, users can take control of their homes remotely, use “smart home” sensors to manipulate thermostats, turn on and off their air conditioners, and even keep track of what products they have in their fridge.

By connecting real-world objects to the internet, IoT has also made this the most dangerous time to be online. How can you continue to enjoy the benefits of IoT technology without falling victim to the cybercriminals?

What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Think about the credible scenarios if cybercriminals managed to crack into your home network and gain access to your devices.

  • IP cameras could be used to spy on your children as they sleep, play, or get dressed.
  • A hacker could turn off your smart refrigerator during the night, spoiling the entire contents.
  • A hacker could remotely override your air conditioner or HVAC system, forcing you and your pets to endure unbearable hot or cold temps.
  • A hacker remotely disables your smart locks and enters your property.

Of course, the more smart devices you have, the more damage that could be done if somebody gains access to the network.

What Can I Do To Keep Safe?

1. Keep A Separate Network for IoT Devices

Creating a sub-network specifically for connecting your IoT devices lets you isolate them from laptops, desktops, and tablets, avoiding any malware that spreads to other devices on the network. Look for a “guest network” option on your router’s admin page.

2. Install Antiviruses with Internet Security Features

If you’re running a smart home, every desktop, laptop, and tablet that connects to the home WiFi needs an antivirus product that includes a built-in firewall. The firewall will monitor all active ports and ensure that IoT devices on the network are not trying to access the human interface devices.

To view recommended options, check out our reviews of Norton (Security Standard and above have a third party firewall), Bitdefender (Total Security and Family Pack contain a firewall), and Panda.

3. Use the Strongest Encryption Method Your Router Offers

Make sure that your router is using the strongest encryption method available, such as WPA2. Whatever you do, do not leave your WiFi unprotected without a password.

4. Change Any Default Usernames and Passwords

If your smart fridge came with a default username (often “admin), and you have the option to change it, do so now. Cybercriminals have access to lists of default credentials by smart device manufacturers. Even if they only have one part of the picture (like the username), finding the missing credential is easier.

5. Make Sure That All IoT Devices Use Passwords

Although it’s rare, some IoT devices do not require you to configure a password at setup. If you don’t have an option to configure a remote connection password, you might not want to use that device.

6. To Play it Safe, Avoid UPnP

Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) is designed to make it easier to connect wireless devices to your home network. However, security researchers have documented many vulnerabilities in their connection methods. To play it safe, avoid using UPnP and make sure that it is disabled in all device settings pages.

7. Make Sure Your Devices Receive Automatic Software Updates

Out-of-date software can be overrun with bugs that hackers exploit. Make sure that any IoT devices connected to your network receive automatic software updates from the manufacturer.

8. Use a Router-Level VPN

A VPN that can be installed on your router will ensure that all traffic sent through it is tunneled and encrypted. Unlike device-level VPNs, a router VPN will protect every device connecting to the WiFi network—whether a smart home device or a traditional endpoint. This will make it substantially harder for hackers to make their way into your home.

Enjoy Your Smart Home — Just Be Careful

IoT technology is transforming the way we can interact with our homes. Like any innovation, however, it has its potential pitfalls. Follow the tips above to keep hackers out of your home.

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.