Tips on securing smart home devices

Smart home devices include the Google Nest Hub (left) and the Arlo Pro 3 security camera system (above).
Smart home devices include the Google Nest Hub (above) and the Arlo Pro 3 security camera system.PHOTOS: GOOGLE, ARLO
Smart home devices include the Google Nest Hub (left) and the Arlo Pro 3 security camera system (above).
Smart home devices include the Google Nest Hub and the Arlo Pro 3 security camera system (above).PHOTOS: GOOGLE, ARLO

1 USE A STRONG, UNIQUE PASSWORD

Always pick a unique and strong password containing a random string of alphanumeric characters and symbols for your devices.

Use a password manager such as LastPass to help you generate and remember these passwords.

Some mobile apps used to control smart home devices also offer a biometric authentication option using facial recognition or fingerprint.

Whenever possible, switch on multi-factor authentication, which requires a second verification method, such as an SMS or a security token, for your smart home devices, to prevent them from being hijacked by malware or hackers.

2 USE A GUEST WI-FI NETWORK

Most routers offer the option of having a guest Wi-Fi network that is separate from your main network.

This option lets you isolate your smart home devices from your other devices such as computers and smartphones, as you can put them in separate networks.

By doing so, malware that has infected your computer, for instance, may not spread easily to devices in the other Wi-Fi network.

Of course, remember to use a different, strong password for each network.

3 USE A VPN FOR SMART HOME DEVICES

For more advanced users, consider using a virtual private network (VPN) service to encrypt the traffic to and from your smart home devices.

Unlike computers and smartphones, it can be tricky, if not impossible, to install VPN software in smart home devices.

Hence, you typically have to configure the home router to use a VPN service.

Many VPN providers offer guides on how to do so, though it also depends on whether your router supports a VPN feature.

4 KEEP YOUR GADGETS UPDATED

Older smart home devices are unlikely to be able to update their firmware or software automatically.

It is up to the user to periodically check for updates to fix any security vulnerability.

5 SUBSCRIBE TO WEBSITES THAT TRACK DATA BREACHES

Most smart home devices require you to sign up for a free account, typically with your e-mail address.

While it is not recommended to use the same account credentials for multiple smart home devices, users will continue to do so as it is difficult to remember multiple passwords.

Subscribing to websites such ashaveibeenpwned.com will alert you if your e-mail address has been compromised in data breaches, giving you time to change passwords - if you have been reusing them.

Vincent Chang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 25, 2020, with the headline 'Tips on securing smart home devices'. Print Edition | Subscribe