How to Secure Smart Embedded Devices, Platforms, and Applications this Holiday Season

This holiday season, many people may be planning to gift smart devices such as “smart thermostats”, “smart locks”, “smart bulbs” or intelligent coffee makers to their friends and families. Or you may plan to outfit your home with connected devices and applications. While purchasing smart embedded devices during the holiday season is a good idea, ignoring the security risks that come with such devices can be dangerous.

These smart home devices are part of what is called the Internet of Things (IoT). The IoT refers to the growing network of physical objects that are in the Internet, or have an IP address for internet connectivity. This internet connectivity is what allows these devices to communicate with each other and you with these devices. See the risk? Anything on the internet is susceptible to being hacked. Even the most secure networks are at risk, not to mention your home network.

In 2016 some of the world's top tech executives were hacked - including Mark Zuckerberg. The computer network of a U.S. presidential candidate was hacked and thieves broke into the second largest Bitcoin exchange stealing over $65 million worth of cryptocurrency. You may be asking, what does this have to do with me and who would be interested in hacking my thermostat?

Sophisticated attacks are becoming increasingly common raising concerns about the security of anything on the Internet, including smart embedded devices. These concerns highlight why it is important for consumers to secure smart embedded devices as most of the smart devices are connected to the internet around the clock. So, they are very vulnerable to cyber attacks.

How to secure smart embedded devices

Did you purchase a smart thermostat or a connected garage door opener on Black Friday or Cyber Monday? Follow these six tips to make sure your devices are properly secured.

1. Lock down your router. Your router is the Gateway to your “smart home” and hackers can easily use a poorly-secured router to access all the smart embedded devices in your network. The router is often the weakest link in a connected home set-up.

  • Purchase a good router.
  • Set complex router and Wi-Fi passwords.
  • Turn on HTTPS access to the router interface, if available.
  • Always log out when done.
  • Keep your router's firmware up to date.

For more details read this article.

2. Make sure people don’t tamper with your devices. Smart devices that come with USB based update mechanisms are prone to quick compromise. So, make sure you put your smart devices and appliances in a place where random strangers can’t access them. If you have smart devices with a management port, don’t forget to exercise extra caution.

3. Go with a cloud-based service. If you use multiple smart devices consider moving to a cloud-based service to manage your connected devices efficiently. Most importantly, cloud service providers usually do a good job at securing the smart devices connected to their network. If you don’t have a cloud service in place, you will have to take care of the security aspect all by yourself.

4. Pay attention to your mobile apps. Most IoT devices can be controlled through mobile apps. So, to secure these devices, you need to ensure the security of your mobile device (tablet and smartphone) first. Avoid downloading apps from unknown sources as they might contain malware which will expose your phone to hackers and allow them to gain access to the smart devices through your phone.

5. Don’t open attachments and links from random emails. You have heard this before. But during the holiday season, when people are busy and aren’t paying as close of attention as they are during other times of the year, it’s easier to have something slip past. This time of the year, it is very common to receive tons of emails from various sources about lucrative offers and deals. However, if you notice anything suspicious, don’t open it and certainly don’t open the attachments and links as they might contain potentially harmful malware. These may be attempts by hackers to obtain access to your devices.

6. Buy products from manufacturers with a proven track record. This holiday, avoid buying devices that promise a lot of cool features at a very cheap price. Such products are usually sold by companies that are just dabbling in the smart device market. Chances are these companies don’t focus on the security of their devices. So, go with a company that has been around for a long time, someone with a good reputation. It may cost more, but it will be worth it in the long run.

As the IoT and ‘Smart Home” technology continue to grow, things like security and data privacy are bound to improve. In the meantime, heed our warning, use your best judgment, and follow these simple tips to secure your smart embedded devices and have a stress-free holiday season.

 

And how can you test and verify your IoT designs? See howTotal Phase tools can  help  - Total Phase is Leading the Way to The Internet of Things. Have any questions? Contact us at sales@totalphase.com.

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