These days, people are adding more and more home automation IoT hardware to their homes, attracted by the convenience and additional features they enable. Devices like connected thermostats, smart switches, network cameras, and smart speakers are becoming standard equipment—and we've already reached the point where 66 percent of North American households have at least one network-connected device.
Securing your home network
This number reflects a staggering amount of growth in the IoT space in a very short period of time. This growth, while great for the industry as a whole, comes at a price. It's a fact that we now have millions of users adding devices to their networks without knowing how to secure them. One look at a website like Insecam should be enough to illustrate the extent of the problem.
The problem is that the problems run a bit deeper. Unsecured IoT devices are now becoming the backbone of dangerous botnets, launching DDoS attacks on networks around the world. There have also been cases of security flaws in IoT software components that have left millions of devices vulnerable to hijacking. For the average user, it's getting to the point that adding an IoT device to the home is akin to unlocking the front door and inviting strangers into their homes in the middle of the night.
The good news is that it doesn't have to be that way. In fact, there are some simple things even first-time users can do to protect the IoT devices they add to their homes. To help spread the word, here are the three easiest methods to secure home IoT hardware.
Set up a home VPN server
Nowadays, most internet users are familiar with VPN technology because consumer VPN services are spreading like wildfire. They may not know that a VPN can also be a great way to secure home IoT devices. To use one this way, you must set up a home VPN server and use your network router (or firewall) to block incoming access to IoT devices on the network. Then, whenever you need to connect to these devices from outside the network, just use a VPN to create a secure communication path. Doing so will preserve your remote access to your devices while denying attackers access to any vulnerabilities in the devices in use.
Add a firewall
In the average home network, there is little between the various connected devices and the Internet other than the modem from the ISP. While these devices offer little protection against external threats, they are not known for their security. This means adding a purpose-built firewall device to the mix is the first step to securing IoT devices in the home. Antivirus and network security vendor Bitdefender has already created a device specifically designed to protect connected IoT devices, so it's a good place to start. For more advanced users who have an unused computer, it's even possible to deploy an open source solution like Untangle that does the job quite well.
Create a segregated network
As it turns out, one of the biggest problems with unsecured IoT devices is that they offer attackers a convenient route into the home network when compromised. Unfortunately, even with a firewall in place, the nature of most IoT devices means that they will remain in contact with the outside world (eg calling home for updates or connecting to cloud services) even if you're not aware of it - so they're still somewhat vulnerable. To minimize this risk, creating a separate network for your IoT devices is a good idea. This keeps them isolated from your computers, tablets and smartphones, reducing the chance of damage if an unexpected error occurs.
A safe smart home
By deploying these three simple solutions, most of the risks associated with today's home IoT devices are eliminated. As developments in the IoT space continue, there is sure to be a renewed focus on security and standardization, making many of these measures less important, but for now they should form the basis of an effective IoT home defense. So don't wait to protect your home IoT equipment and be sure to let others know they should do the same - they'll thank you for it.