How to Hack-Proof Your Home
By Diane Tait
Image courtesy Pixabay
You may have noticed that gas prices have recently shot up. What you may not be aware is that part of the cause was related to a hack attack on one of the nation’s key fuel pipelines. Two weeks ago, Colonial Pipeline Company was forced to shut down 5,500 miles of gas pipeline for several days when a control system was compromised by a cyberattack. The company was ultimately forced to pay a $5 million ransom to regain control of their pipeline. What’s even worse is that this kind of corporate disruption is hardly unique. Attacks against the global financial sector have more than doubled in the past year alone. If you’re looking to avoid having your world turned upside down by hackers, here are the top-10 things you can do to hack-proof your home.
1. Got Wi-Fi? Hackers don’t need to penetrate your computer to hack you. All they have to do is gain access to your home or corporate Wi-Fi system. Think that’s hard to do? Think again. If you never bothered to change your system’s default login credentials, there are sites on the dark web that post them the most popular ones to cybercriminals. Once inside, a hacker can take control of any wireless in your home, including security cameras, nannycams, printers, and other connected devices.
2. When’s the last time you updated your drivers and antimalware? – If you aren’t on top of updates, you’re rolling out the red carpet to hackers. Far from needing to crack your passwords, if a hacker can exploit a known weakness in your software, it’s like giving them the keys to the castle. Make sure you regularly update drivers and software, not to mention making sure you’re running the latest version of antimalware on all your devices. Install additional security software, including the kind that monitors your system for signs of electronic intruders.
3. How often do you change your passwords? – If it’s been several years since you last updated your passwords, you’re asking for trouble. If your current passwords aren’t at least twelve characters long including numbers and special characters, you might as well get ready to be hacked. Make sure you don’t use the names of your pets, your kids birthdates or any other data that can be glommed from your social nets as part of your password.
Image courtesy Pixabay
4. Do you subscribe to the Internet of Things? - Some IoT devices come with little or no security built in. Even those that do aren’t updated frequently enough. While some IoT devices operate autonomously, they still need to be secured from external threats, particularly if they operate or backup on the cloud. If you want to harden your cybersecurity, you can turn of a device’s DHCP server and manually enter the static IP address of every connected device. This will make them and your network much harder to hack.
5. How smart is a smart home? – While smart appliances are all the rage, there are some real vulnerabilities that hackers can exploit. Remote-controlled security systems, thermostats, and even smart door locks have been hacked in the recent past. Even if the hackers don’t interfere with the operation of your smart home, they can easily plant spyware that can be used to case your home by tracking your movements electronically.
6. Is your smart TV watching you? – If you own a smart TV, you may not realize that it comes preprogrammed to report your viewing habits. If hacked, this same marketing tool can be used by thieves to track your family’s movements. The best way to stop your smart TV from watching you is to dig into your set’s submenus to turn off the viewing data or smart interactivity.
7. Are you in love with your smartphone? So are hackers since the devices are so easy to breach. Once inside, it’s child’s play to recover credit card numbers you used to make purchases and maybe even your bank account number if you use mobile banking. Since smartphones are really just handheld personal computers, you need to treat them as such by making sure you secure them thoroughly so they can’t be easily hacked or used by a stranger if lost or stolen.
Image courtesy Pixabay
8. Who’s watching the watchers? – All the networks you’re connected to routinely log sign-ins and remote access. If you take the time to generate a report every week or so, you’ll find out who is using or trying to access to your home networks, whether the hack was successful or not.
9. Use a little cyber-hygiene? – As with anything else, your cybersecurity is only as strong as its weakest link. Usually that comes down to the human factor. If you or your family want to keep hackers out, all of you have to adopt cyber-safe habits:
a. Enable encryption on all your connected devices. While this won’t interfere with your internet use, it does make it much more difficult for a hacker to connect to your network or intercept your family’s communications.
b. Never accept or acknowledge messages or attachments from anyone you don’t know. Report all spam and phishing attempts to your ISP.
c. Avoid surfing risky websites and falling for clickbait. These are two habits that could quickly result in your family inadvertently downloading spyware or ransomware.
d. Don’t divulge too much personal information on social sites.
e. Don’t store passwords on your devices.
f. Backup your data frequently. This way if your system is compromised, you’ll be able to restore your system without having to knuckle under to a hacker’s demands.
g. Teach your kids the dos and don’ts of safe web surfing and never let them use your computer or smartphone.
h. Don’t give your Wi-Fi passwords out to strangers, including visiting family members. If you need to allow relatives to access your home Wi-Fi create a guest account. This way if their device is hacked, their problem won’t become your problem.
Diane Tait owns and operates A&B Insurance. To find out more about how you can save money on boat insurance, go to her site.