Protecting your home from hackers

Protecting your home network from hackers

We all know that we need to protect our computers from viruses and other malware, but did you know that your home could be vulnerable to hacking? Unfortunately, as more and more devices are connected to the internet, homes are becoming increasingly susceptible to attacks from cybercriminals.

There are however, some simple steps you can take to protect your home from these threats. In this blog post, I will share some tips on how to keep your home safe from hackers whilst accessing new technology that is constantly being developed and show you how to start protecting your home from hackers.

The emergence of smart technology in the home

In recent years, the rise of technology in our homes has been astronomical. Smart home devices range from thermostats and connected doorbells to voice-activated devices and home security systems.

Jon Cosson CISO - protecting your home from hackers

Technological advancements have enabled us to control more aspects of our everyday lives than ever before.

The proliferation of these technologies has allowed for an unprecedented level of evolution of technology in the home due the the explosion of smart home devices but it has also increased the risk of cybercrime dramatically.

What is considered smart home devices and what makes them insecure

Smart home devices and associated technology can be described as any device or electronic (computer) system that can connect to the Internet, usually via a Wi Fi network. Devices include smart TVs, voice assistants, security systems and baby monitors.

These (so called) smart devices are all vulnerable to cyber threats because they often operate on open networks with no encryption or authentication methods in place.

Jon Cosson CISO - protecting your home from hackers

This means that anyone with the right knowledge (or tools) could potentially access these Internet connected devices and take control of them

See my review of the 3 Best Home Security Cameras

To make matters worse, many of these smart home devices come with pre-set usernames and passwords which are often not changed by the user – making it easy for hackers to gain access.

Home Internet routers

Home Internet routers are a common target for cybercriminals who can cause a lot of damage if they gain access. Your Internet router is the gateway between your home network and the outside world, so any vulnerabilities that exist in them can be exploited by malicious actors.

Router security is critical for protecting your data and your devices from being hacked, stolen, or otherwise compromised.

Many people spend a considerable sum on door locks and burglar alarms to protect their valuables but spend little or nothing to protect their Internet router that protects their sensitive data from cybercriminals.

Jon Cosson CISO - protecting your home from hackers

Routers are particularly vulnerable because they are often not patched or kept up-to-date with the latest software, leaving them open to flaws and potential breaches. When a hacker gains access to a router, they can intercept sensitive data passing through it and even redirect traffic, potentially leading to compromised networks.

Let’s assume someone is logging onto their bank account via a laptop within their home network and a cybercriminal has compromised their Internet router. The attacker can force the unsuspecting victim onto a bogus banking website, stealing their credentials.

Unauthorised control of a home Internet router could allow hackers to steal credentials and personal information, or infect computers with malware or ransomware.

Hackers can take control of a router by exploiting known vulnerabilities in older models that may no longer be supported by the manufacturer. These old router models may have outdated encryption protocols or other security weaknesses that can be exploited by hackers to gain access.

Jon Cosson CISO - protecting your home from hackers

In addition to exploiting vulnerabilities in routers, cybercriminals can also use phishing attacks to try and steal login credentials.

Phishing emails often contain links that appear to lead to a legitimate website but pass to a malicious site designed to fool the user and capture information such as usernames and passwords.

Home users need to ensure their Internet routers remain secure from cyber threats by performing regular updates on their firmware, using strong passwords for their devices, disabling remote access features if not needed.

Make sure your Internet router’s firmware is up-to-date with the latest security patches and updates

Making sure your Internet router’s firmware is up-to-date with the latest security patches and updates is one of the most important steps in protecting your home network from cyber-attacks.

Without regular patching, routers may contain vulnerabilities that could be exploited by malicious actors. It’s critical to ensure that all of your internet-connected devices are as secure as possible

To keep your router secure, you should always check for available updates from the manufacturer and install them promptly. You can check for updates by logging into the router’s administrative panel or using a mobile app provided by the manufacturer.

Jon Cosson CISO - protecting your home from hackers

Once logged in, look for any “security” or “firmware” options and make sure you have all the latest versions installed. If you don’t see any “security” or “firmware” settings it might be time to buy a new router – as older models are more prone to being targeted by hackers due to their outdated encryption protocols and other vulnerabilities

Securing your Internet router

In addition to updating your router’s firmware regularly, there are several other steps you should take to protect this critical device:

  1. Change your Internet router’s default username and password

  2. Disabling remote access features if it is not required

  3. Ensure the router’s firewall is enabled and check no one has opened any ports required for gaming – this ‘may’ render the device insecure

  4. Enforce WPA2 wireless encryption, newer routers will have the superior WPA3 standard available.

Wi-Fi Security

You should also look out for any suspicious activity on your home Wi Fi network such as unusual or slow behaviour of Internet-connected devices. Unfortunately it can be difficult to detect such behaviour and may be easier to change your Wi Fi network password instead.

Consider how many people have your Wi Fi network password, who have you previously given this information to, friends, colleagues or tradesmen. Imagine you had provided these individuals with keys to your house. Access to your home network should be seen as just as important.

Changing your Wi-Fi password annually is good housekeeping as there are potentially dozens of items that are connected to your Internet router that you have long since forgotten about and may be insecure and inviting hackers to attack them.

Jon Cosson CISO - protecting your home from hackers

If you notice anything out of the ordinary, immediately change your passwords and contact your internet provider or a cybersecurity professional for further assistance. By following these simple steps, you can help protect your home network from potential cyber threats and keep your data safe from prying eyes.

Securing your Internet of Things (IoT) devices is an important step in keeping your home network secure. IoT devices are anything that connects to the internet, such as smart appliances, voice assistants, or even surveillance cameras. These devices can be vulnerable to cyber-attacks if they’re not properly secured, so it’s important to take the necessary steps to ensure their safety.

The first thing you should do is to make sure all of your IoT devices are password-protected and running the latest firmware updates. As with any other device connected to the internet, manufacturers periodically release security patches and updates that you should apply as soon as possible. This will help protect your devices from the most common threats and vulnerabilities

You should also consider using two-factor authentication for any accounts associated with your IoT devices. This adds an extra layer of security by requiring a code sent via text message or email to access a device or account

Jon Cosson CISO - protecting your home from hackers

If possible, you should also look into setting up a virtual private network (VPN). VPNs use encryption technologies that keep hackers from being able to view or intercept data sent over the internet connection. They also hide your IP address and location so that no one can access your information without authorization

Finally, when setting up an IoT device make sure to check what type of data it is collecting and how it’s going to use it. For example, if you’re installing a smart home surveillance camera be sure to understand its privacy policy before giving consent for its use.

You should also be aware of any potential security risks associated with having such a device on your network and take measures to mitigate them if possible

Internet-connected devices

The Internet of Things (IoT) or Internet of Anything (IoA) has revolutionised the way we interact with our digital world, but it has also created a new set of security vulnerabilities that need to be addressed.

IoT devices are often used in home and office networks, but they can be just as vulnerable to attack as any other computer device.

IoT default passwords

To protect your home network, you should ensure all the devices that have Internet access have a unique password that you have input. Never use the default password that the device was set with.

Read how to create a good password article

IoT devices often use default or easily guessed passwords, making them easy targets for hackers looking to gain access to your network. To counter this vulnerability, you should always ensure that all of your IoT devices have strong, unique passwords that are regularly changed.

You may also want to consider additional authentication methods such as two-factor authentication or biometric authentication if available.

IoT design flaws

IoT devices can also be vulnerable due to weak hardware design and manufacturing processes. Since many IoT products are designed on tight budgets and rushed timelines, they often lack basic security features such as secure boot processes or secure firmware updates which can leave them open to attack from hackers who exploit these weaknesses.

As a result, it’s important to research an IoT device before purchasing and make sure it includes features such as secure boot processes and trusted platform modules (TPMs)

Support and firmware updates

Many manufacturers fail to keep their software up-to-date after releasing their products, leaving customers open to attack unless they actively monitor for new updates and patch their systems accordingly.

It’s important not only to look out for updates but also to take steps such as disabling remote access features that may be unnecessary for your particular setup so malicious actors cannot access your system remotely through exploits in outdated versions of firmware or software applications running on the device itself

Jon Cosson CISO - protecting your home from hackers

Check for independent reviews of these devices and the stability of the manufacturer. If the supplier has a record of retiring devices after 12 months they will no longer provide firmware updates which would almost certainly render the device insecure and vulnerable to attack.

Almost any device that can connect and access the Internet can become vulnerable to a cyber attack. You must ensure the device is regularly updated or can automatically update itself.

Connecting your latest gadget at Christmas and forgetting about it months later without ensuring it is still receiving regular updates can prove very risky. Every device you connect to the Internet can be compromised if you don’t set them up correctly.

Data protection

You should also be aware of any security risks associated with the types of data these devices collect and how they use it. You should be careful when configuring you smart home devices as they could collect a significant amount of your data that could be insecurely stored or used for marketing or even malicious purposes.

Carefully review the instructions before you connect any device to your internal network. You should consider the data the device is monitoring and where it is stored and processed.

Conclusion

To ensure the safety of your home network from potential cyber threats, it’s important to address poorly configured routers or Internet-connected devices (IoT). It is important to stay vigilant, not allowing random devices to connect to your internal home network.

By following best practice guidelines that are outlined within this blog, securely configuring your home network devices and protecting yourself against malicious actors, you can significantly reduce the chances of being attacked and your devices being compromised by malicious cybercriminals.

Taking small steps when purchasing and connecting devices could mean the difference between a safe and secure home network or one left open to exploitation by would-be hackers looking for any possible way to access your sensitive and personal data.

For more information visit the National Cyber Security Centre