Is your home as safe and secure as you think it is? With a rapidly growing number of electrical and electronic items in the home that can be monitored and controlled through Wi-Fi, it might not be and you might be leaving virtual doors open for hackers to get in.
With faster, more reliable and affordable broadband it’s becoming easier to connect the entire home. This kind of connected home technology, which goes above and beyond traditional computers such as phones and laptops, is also known as the Internet of Things (IoT).
There are many connected home items, such as heating, lighting and security systems which can include alarms, cameras and motion sensors that can be controlled remotely by a smartphone, tablet or computer. It’s now even possible to buy a refrigerator which tells you when you need to stock up on food or automatically orders it for you.
All these products are usually linked to their own app on your smartphone or tablet, but also increasingly popular are smart TVs which are linked to the internet, and smart speakers through which you can control household functions including ordering online with a simple voice command.
Detective Superintendent Aaron Duggan of Cheshire Constabulary explains: “There are many household items which now have a ‘smart’ version complete with internet enabled technology, making our homes more connected. Smart toasters, kettles, televisions, baby monitors, even lightbulbs, for example, are readily available. These all help to make life much easier but can also share information making it easier for cybercriminals to collect data to be able to carry out fraud scams.
"They do this by releasing Remote Access Trojans (known as RATs) which can be inadvertently downloaded in malicious emails, unauthorised programs and weblinks that lead nowhere.
“Fortunately there are sensible and simple steps that can be taken to help protect against online criminals and RATs. The precautions are as simple as choosing strong, safe passwords, updating device operating systems and backing up data on a regular basis, making sure adequate antivirus/antispyware is installed and staying safe while online. For example, avoid revealing personal information such as your name and date of birth on social media.”
How to make sure your connected home is safe and secure
- Make sure your Wi-Fi is secure - search for available wireless networks, and those that are secured will be shown with a padlock symbol.
- For devices which need a password (as well as a Wi-Fi password) to connect, always change factory-set passwords for secure ones you create yourself
- Never use the same password for more than one connected device or for those you use for other online accounts.
- Make sure that all your computers and mobile devices are fitted with updated internet security software, and also that access to them is protected with a PIN or passcode.
- Check the apps associated with your connected devices and install updates as soon as prompted. Also, regularly check manufacturers’ websites for updates as they can be slow to push them out via the apps.
- Consider that buying well-known, reputable brands means that more care has probably been taken in securing the products – and your and your family’s security.
Detective Superintendent Duggan continued: “Hackers used to only target computers and mobile devices, but now they’re turning to connected devices because they are a lot easier to hack in to. As long as people follow the simple measures to keep their technology – and importantly their information – secure, they should be safe from internet criminals. I would strongly advise people to look at the helpful advice and information on how to stay safe online on the Cheshire Police website (www.cheshire.police.uk) or at GetSafeOnline (www.getsafeonline.org).”
Anyone who becomes a victim of fraud through connected devices or for any other reason should report it as soon as possible to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2020, or at www.actionfraud.police.uk