How Hackers Gain Access to Your Home

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by Joseph Mack

The popularity of the smart home has been growing in leaps and bounds in recent years and while that should be a good thing for consumers it does raise some concerns. Unfortunately there will always be some unscrupulous individuals out there determined to take advantage of innocent people at every opportunity – that includes both the real world and the cyber universe. There have been several high profile incidents in which hackers have used smart devices in homes to create massive denial of service attacks on major corporations. This is disturbing in itself, but these hackers aren’t just after the corporations they’re also a threat to the average family as well. Here are some things you should know about the risks of creating a smart home and how you can protect yourself against them.

No Passwords by Default

Unfortunately many smart devices such as video door bells and smart locks don’t include passwords by default or if they do they come with generic factory default passwords that are easily hacked. These passwords are normally something like 0000 or 1111 and they don’t require a lot of imagination to crack. Savvy hackers can easily figure out the default passwords for most devices by simply looking up what each manufacturer typically uses. Once they have this information it only takes them a couple of seconds to gain access to your devices and your local area network as a whole.

Web Crawling

You might be wondering how they find you in the first place, but that’s actually a surprisingly simple process. Believe it or not a simple Google search can often provide hackers links to peoples smart devices that either have no passwords at all or generic ones that are easily hacked. These hackers also use programs called bots which are automated programs that crawl around the web looking for vulnerabilities that they can exploit. They generally don’t have much trouble finding plenty of unwilling candidates for them to take advantage of.

Gain Access and Gain Control

What can they do once they gain access to your system? In many cases hackers are simply out to cause a little mischief. They may control your smart equipped lighting system causing your lights to flick on and off randomly, they can use your doorbell video cameras to spy on you, or they might even be able to open your garage door remotely. In some situations hackers can not only access your devices they can use those devices to determine your real world location. If that’s the case and they can use your smart home to open your garage they can do a lot more than simply causing a little mischief.

One of the main reasons that people don’t worry about passwords on their smart devices is because they believe they’re protected by their Wi-Fi networks security, but that isn’t always as secure as you may think. If you haven’t placed passwords on the devices in your smart home such as your smart thermostat and your Wi-Fi enabled intercom system as soon as hackers get past the security of your Wi-Fi network they have access to every device on your system.

Don’t ever assume that the manufacturers of these devices have your best interests in mind. The rise in popularity of smart enabled home devices has created a cutthroat industry in which every player is rushing to get their product to market before their competitors and they don’t perform extensive security testing. You are your own best line of defense.

Protecting Yourself

It’s not all doom and gloom though. There are things you can do to protect yourself. A good place to start is by purchasing a VPN firewall router to protect your local area network. A VPN hides the real location of your network by disguising your address and location in the world making it difficult for hackers to gain access. No system is foolproof, but this is a good place to start. Hackers are normally looking for the easy marks. If you have a firewall protected VPN router you’re probably more trouble than you’re worth to the hacker.

Smart devices typically have firmware that you use to navigate your way around the system. Always make sure this firmware is up to date. In many cases the reason manufacturers provide updates is because a security vulnerability has been discovered and ignoring these can leave you at risk.

It’s also important to change your default password as soon as you purchase a smart device for your home. As we’ve already mentioned default passwords are easy to crack and this is one of the simplest things you can do to protect yourself. It will only take a couple of seconds to do this and it’s well worth a couple of moments of your time to ensure you’re protected against unwanted prying eyes.

Lastly, always opt for the name brand devices such as August Smart Locks or a Nest Smart Thermostat. These devices may be a little more expensive than generic devices, but they also have more robust security. Spending a little bit more upfront could potentially save you a lot of money in the long run. Your smart home will make your life a lot easier as long as you do the right things to keep the hackers out.

About the author

This is a guest post by Joseph Mack from smarthomeSAGE, a blog that analyzes the impact that smart home technology has on home life.

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