If you were to adopt only one New Year’s resolution this year, prioritize your smart devices’ security!

You may have found some under the Christmas tree: Apple Watches, Amazon’s Alexa and Ring bells, smartphones… the latest smart devices, of which technology lovers are increasingly fond of. The IoT market has indeed really taken off in France in recent years: a study conducted by a German market research and marketing auditing firm shows that the Internet of Things grew by 17% between 2017 and 2018, and is expected to retain this pace in upcoming years. Technological innovations especially flourish in the sectors of health, home automation, sports, security and leisure. In 2018, smart homes accounted for half of the market’s overall turnover, with €600 million in revenue generated by the sale of home automation products. Nonetheless, this growing popularity comes hand-in-hand with increased cyber risks, which remain a top concern for individuals and companies. A risk barometer published by Allianz in 2018 established that 41% of all participants put cyber incidents as the number one threat menacing the good functioning of French firms. The government contends that consumers expose themselves to two main risks, the first one being a data leak for commercial purposes, and the second one is having this same data hacked for malicious ends. In order to limit the dangers, responsible users must not overlook some of the precautions relative to the use of smart devices. Here is a guide dedicated to keep your smart devices “healthy” in 2020. 

Open Sesame

This may seem obvious, but your personal credentials are probably the data most likely to be found by attackers. The first trap to avoid is leaving the default usernames and passwords set by providers. It is indeed necessary to create robust passwords, containing numbers, letters, upper and lower case letters, as well as special characters… However, passwords should be single-use only if they are to really reinforce the security of your devices, and can’t be a gateway to the rest of your smart devices. Changing these credentials regularly will also increase the security of these devices.

Don’t leave software updates to the last minute

Security and software updates are a great way to enhance the security of your devices on a regular basis. Doing so will limit the number of vulnerabilities that are present on obsolete versions, and that are usually known to attackers. Updates are regularly launched by providers to solve any security flaws identified in products.

A network for each device

In its safety guideline, the government also advocates limiting the access of a device to the other ones that are connected to the network. This measure is intended to limit the number of devices impacted in the event of an attack. In the words of the government, “if you own a smart TV, you will need to change the default password and choose a personal, secured network with an adequate protection key for the WiFi and router”. It’s best to keep the access to your home network as isolated as possible; for instance, it may not be necessary for your TV to be connected to your printer.

Keep your mailbox clean

Let’s keep an eye out in 2020. Did you just receive a slightly suspicious file from an unusual address? It might be a virus. As a precautionary measure, do not download any file from an unknown source; it could be a Trojan horse, a virus that penetrates your computer, accesses your data and turns your machine into a “zombie”, an infected device, or botnet. Another email incites you to click on a suspicious link? You may be victim to phishing, the act of sending fake emails containing a connection link allegedly sent by a safe source (your energy supplier, social networks or bank). Behind these emails hides a malicious hacker, committed to hack the said-account by recovering the credentials that you provided when attempting to connect. Remember to check the sender before clicking on a link or downloading a file contained in the email. As a reminder, do not communicate confidential data via email either!

Check the security of the desired products before buying

Finally, we suggest that you consult the security barometer authored by the Mozilla Foundation before acquiring any smart device. This interactive catalogue lists 77 smart devices that consumers love, and rates them according to their vulnerability. Several criteria come into play: storing the data, implementing security updates, defining complex passwords, managing vulnerabilities, and offering specific documentation on personal data protection. Proven technologies include Google Home, the Facebook Portal and Amazon’s Ring bells. The purpose of this list is to raise consumer awareness of the potential security flaws already present in popular smart devices.