5 ways to stay secure when using the Internet of Things
19 July 2016
It seems every week there's a new story about an Internet of Things (IoT) device being hacked, sending spam or generally not providing the level of security you'd expect from a commercial product.
To help consumers stay safe when using IoT-connected devices, the Information Commissioner's Office's group manager for technology Simon Rice has offered some tips for staying secure in a blog post. Here's what he recommends...
1. Do your research
A quick search around on the internet can tell you a lot about the device you're about to buy. As well as highlighting any known vulnerabilities, it can also provide clues as to when - if ever - your new purchase will receive security updates or if there are any available already. Just make sure you back up before you update the firmware to avoid losing any of your data.
2. Check your router's security
For all the talk of fancy new IoT gadgets, it's your router that will be connecting them all to the internet, and if you drop the ball here you could be in big trouble. Again, check the firmware is up-to-date and be sure to use a password to stop unauthorised access - and that means changing it from the default code available to anybody with the product manual.
3. Use strong passwords
That tip also applies to your new IoT devices: don't use the default passwords, which can easily be identified by hackers. The usual password tips apply here, too: make sure your passwords are complex enough not to be guessable by cyber criminals, and use a different password for each device so that if one is cracked you haven't lost your whole network.
4. Know your device
While it can be tempting to skip the setup process and dive right in to try out your shiny new toy's features, you're better off sitting down and reading the manual before you use it. It might not be the most exciting approach, but it'll ensure that you're aware of any security and privacy features that you might otherwise have missed.
5. Use two-step authentication
Even if you've chosen a password you're sure hackers would never think of, two-step authentication can help to boost your device's security even further. Often, it means that nobody can log in to your devices or accounts without inputting a code sent to your mobile phone or email account, so hackers are even less likely to get in.
For more on staying secure with the IoT, see the Information Commissioner's Office's blog.