Smart Home Tips and Tricks

Top mistakes users make with their smart devices

Tons of high-tech devices are on the market, mostly connected to the internet and communicating with each other. The desire to live in an automated home has made both users and manufacturers rush to buy or develop smart gadgets that are more of a hazard than a help.

As IoT grows in popularity, everyone wants a piece of it, starting with tech giants Google, Amazon and Apple, and ending with startups and the consumer. But just because the number of companies embracing it is growing, it doesn’t mean the products properly sync with all infrastructures, that they have no backdoors or that users know what they’re getting into.

Sure, it sounds amazing to monitor your home, answer the door while on vacation or dim the lights through voice control. At some point, we all fall into the trap of wanting to be at the front of a new trend. But the lax security turns them into multiple entry points for hackers. Simple user mistakes often facilitate attacks disseminated by exploited IoT devices.

What are some top mistakes users make when embracing smart devices?

  • People are often not even aware they live in a smart home. Only a fifth or fewer consider their homes to be smart, according to Bitdefender research.
  • Not researching the legitimacy of the manufacturer and not reading product reviews for the device they want to purchase. It is vital to double check that you’re dealing with a trustworthy, reputable brand.
  • Users automatically connect all the devices to their home infrastructure. This makes them vulnerable to attacks, as it creates multiple entry points for hackers. Plus, if one device is hacked, the rest will follow.

“On average, a household from the United States carries 13 smart devices or accessories. There are 12 in the UK and Australia, and 10 in France, Romania and Germany,” Bitdefender found. “In most homes, the top devices that have access to the home’s Wi-Fi network are smartphones, Windows desktop computers and tablets, followed by smart TVs and wireless gaming consoles.”

  • Users expect high performance and complex features, and are caught up in the enticement of new and fancy gadgets, instead of strong security.
  • They don’t demand security from manufacturers.
  • Not managing security and privacy. Weak credentials and passwords, no network encryption and outdated firmware.

“42% Americans have never updated the firmware or default software package. A similar situation regarding performing updates can be found among Romanians (51%), Brits and Australians (38%), Germans (27%) and French users (34%),” Bitdefender says.

  • If there is anything worse than weak “1234”-type passwords, it is reusing the password for all devices, as have 16 percent of US users. The basic, default passwords allow hackers easy access into any device and network, and are the root cause for massive data leaks.

“Almost every gadget we’ve analyzed in our ongoing security research on IoT gadgets displayed weak user credentials and no hot-spot authentication,” says Alexandru Balan, Chief Security Researcher at Bitdefender. “Changing default passwords is a critical security practice, yet a lot of users still ignore it.”

Here’s some security advice to keep a smart home safe: enhance security and privacy, use strong and complex passwords for all devices, including for the wireless routers, isolate the smart TV on a separate network and double check that the apps you install and devices you buy are accurate. And think of implementing a smart security solution for all your connected devices that will detect and block all malware, phishing and hacking attempts.

About the author

Luana PASCU

From a young age, Luana knew she wanted to become a writer. After having addressed topics such as NFC, startups, and tech innovation, she has now shifted focus to internet security, with a keen interest in smart homes and IoT threats. Luana is a supporter of women in tech and has a passion for entrepreneurship, technology, and startup culture.

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