Small Business

The Internet of Things brings new conveniences, new risks

Fraud Prevention

Connected devices – the proliferation of which is known as the “Internet of Things,” or IoT – attract so many of us because they simplify tasks. But they also connect us to more security risks.

Hand seen programming a wall-mounted tablet screen, with view into a bright stylish kitchen nearby.I say that as an enthusiastic participant in the IoT phenomenon. I love being able to use my phone to check if a hailstorm has affected my house, for example, or if my refrigerator is out of milk.

I’ve also heard stories that temper my enthusiasm — about hackers remotely taking over home security cameras, small business alarm systems, and connected cars.

Trends suggest more IoT growth is coming. The typical home has about five devices — not counting computers, tablets, or cellphones — connected to a local network, according to PC magazine. Small businesses will become a “top adopter” of IoT solutions in the coming years, reports Business Insider.

Some common security precautions regarding these devices may help you benefit from the IoT phenomenon, whether you’re a consumer or business owner. Here are five tips to help safeguard your IoT devices:

Keep your devices up to date. Pay attention to the alerts you may get on your phone, for example, about system updates or security patches. Make sure to download these when they are available. In addition, many IoT devices have a setting you can turn on for allowing automatic update installations.

Change the default passwords. Many devices come with a default password, which you should change to a personalized, strong password as soon as you begin using the device. Hackers have been able to locate lists of manufacturers’ default passwords on the Web. Once they infiltrate a device, such as a camera, they have an easier time accessing other sensitive data. I shared some additional tips for businesses in this post from last year.

Avoid using open Wi-Fi networks. Using an Internet connection that isn’t password-protected makes you a much easier target for cyber criminals. This fact may also prompt business owners who offer open Wi-Fi on their premises to reconsider.

Get the latest firmware for your devices. This will take some work, as you may not get notified regarding updates – especially if you are using a business application. You may need to be more proactive with manufacturers of devices like Wi-Fi routers, security systems, and office equipment.

Create a separate network for your IoT devices. Some routers come with instructions for setting up multiple networks. Having a separate network for your IoT devices will make it harder for hackers to access all your information.

The FBI published a public service announcement about IoT in 2015 that still contains useful information for further reading.

As the Internet of Things continues to grow and make many things in life easier, hacking shouldn’t be one of them. Take some time to review the safety of your networks and devices.

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