Are your IoT devices putting you at risk?

In the era of connected technologies, we have access to a host of devices from the Internet of Things (IoT) that enables us to collect and share data. Your electronic toothbrush can chart your brushing habits to share with your dentist. Your refrigerator can reorder groceries via radio frequency identification (RFID) tags. Your health monitoring bracelet can track your vital signs and activity levels to help you reach your fitness goals.

In the next four to five years, it is estimated that more than 40 billion IoT devices will be wirelessly connected, according to TechCrunch. Nearly every device you use, from your toaster to your home’s HVAC system, could become an IoT device. With this influx of connected devices comes greater security risks.

In many cases, companies developing such devices are more focused on product functionality and features than security. Conversely, for devices with adequate protection, some consumers may fail to use available security features, putting themselves at risk for privacy and data breaches.

To protect yourself from the risk of cyber attacks and breaches via your IoT devices, follow these security measures:

  • Limit your connections. If your device does not need to be connected to the Internet, do not connect it. Also, disconnect devices when they are not in use. Limiting connections will help prevent exposure to hacking.
  • Use separate WiFi access. Connect IoT devices on a secondary private WiFi network, separate from your main network that you use for sensitive activities like banking. Doing so can protect the data you store on your main network from being hacked through your IoT devices.
  • Secure your smartphone. Protect your smartphone data by setting up passwords, pin codes and other security features that prevent unauthorized access. Invest in software designed to secure your data in the case of loss or theft; these programs can track your device via GPS, perform data backups and remotely wipe data. Turn off WiFi when secure connections are not available to prevent auto-connecting to unsecured networks.
  • Maintain strong passwords or codes. Ensure you update passwords or pin codes on your IoT devices regularly with strong combinations. Include numbers, uppercase and lowercase letters, characters, and symbols, if permissible. Make sure your passwords are memorable, but not too easy to guess. It is also good to have different passwords for different devices, in case of a breach. See the university Password Standard for additional information on choosing strong passwords.
  • Enable updates. If the IoT device has the ability to receive security updates, ensure those are enabled or manually perform updates on a consistent basis.
  • Install a firewall. To better secure your IoT devices, you can install a firewall to add a layer of security against hacking and other security risks.
  • Opt for privacy. If the IoT device has privacy options, select those which share the least information or disable sharing features. It is a good idea to disable device features such as motion detection and voice recognition, when not in use, to prevent hackers from taking over any monitoring features.
  • Replace outdated devices. Replace older devices with newer technologies that offer better or updated security features.

For additional security tips, see: