Having a smart home is great. The ability to control multiple devices in your home such as your lights, doors, windows, fans, air conditioners and televisions all with your voice or from your smart phone can be very convenient and there are many benefits. But with all these connected devices in your home, at one point you need to consider your privacy and security.
In a recent report by Symantec, it was found that there was a 600% increase in overall attacks on IOT devices between 2016 and 2017. Steps need to be taken in homes to make sure there aren’t any vulnerabilities or privacy breaches. Here are some simple tips to help you secure your smart home.
Tips To Secure Your Smart Home
Change Default Wake names in Google Home or Alexa
Devices like Google Home or Alexa are activated by using what’s known as a ‘wake name’. Saying the word “Alexa” on an Amazon device will wake the device up and then it will start listening for what you need to know such as what the weather is or if you need to order pizza. The problem with it is that anyone who knows the default names can essentially activate and control your device. Unfortunately wake names on both devices are limited and cannot be custom made. Alexa has four wake names which include “Alexa” “Amazon” “Computer” and “Echo” and Google Home has two “Okay Google” or “Hey Google”. At the moment on default settings anyone can go to an Alexa device and say “Alexa tell me my schedule for today” and it will likely tell that person the schedule.
Changing the default names may fool some people trying to access your device that may not know much about them, but mostly it might be useful in stopping Alexa waking up every time someone says Alexa on TV or on a YouTube video you are watching. A recent article from Tech Radar did report that soon custom wake names might become available in a future update for Google Home. If this happens, it will do a lot when it comes to preventing people from waking your devices in your home.
Set up voice recognition
Setting up voice recognition is one of the best steps that you can take when it comes to securing your smart home devices such as Google Home or Alexa. This is the next step in security to a simple default name change. By setting up voice recognition, your Google Home will be trained to only activate and turn on when you say “Hey Google” or “Okay Google” and not someone else in your household. Nobody else will be able to use it or activate your settings without using your voice to do it.
Voice recognition can be quite useful for setting up custom music preferences for different users, keeping schedules/calendars separate or for keeping certain things private in your home. A Google Home can have up to 6 different individual voices stored inside it for each family member who may use the devices, but they will each need a Google account to activate their voice. Amazon Alexa also offers voice recognition, but the feature is currently only available in the US for Alexa users. Anyone in Australia can and should use voice recognition on their Google Home device.
Mute your devices
Muting your devices when you’re in the room with them is a great idea if you are concerned about your privacy. These smart home devices tend to be always listening and always trying to hear what you are saying. They are always ready for you and for when you say their ‘wake words’ so they can do something. But sometimes, things can go wrong with these devices and they can become activated just while you’re talking with your family or friends. In some cases, like in the news story below, an Amazon Alexa device sent recordings of a family talking amongst themselves to an employee from their workplace without anyone in the Alexa enabled home telling Alexa to actually do that. Muting your devices, both for Google Home and Amazon Alexa will turn off the microphone and stop them listening.
Be Careful What You Connect Your Smart Devices To
Many people have connected a range of their devices to their voice enabled smart home hubs. This is great, because it’s convenient. But it can be dangerous if you don’t have the right settings activated. For example, connecting your smart doors to an Amazon Alexa and then having no voice control settings and the default Alexa name as the wake name means that anyone can come to your house and yell “Alexa open the doors” and it’s possible it will open them up for anyone. So keep this in mind when you have sensitive security devices connected to your smart home with your voice. Even if you do choose to use your own voice as the only voice recognition, these things are not 100% and they can occasionally be tricked by people with voice changers or voice recordings, so if you have sensitive devices in your home, be sure to keep them away from being connected.
Change Your Router Name & Password
Some routers that can be bought in stores come with the same username and password for every unit sold. These are things like the username being “Admin” and the password being “password123”. These things are both easy to guess and are often known by hackers. It’s a good idea to change these so that they’re hard to guess or hack because if a hacker out there does manage to get into your router, they can compromise your entire smart home network.
Keep your software up to date
Keeping up with software updates is a must in a world where you have decided to always be connected. Many people think that software updates are just there to bring new features to their devices, but often times they also include security patches. These updates, especially the ones with security patches are important to keep up with to keep any hackers over the web from taking control of your devices.
Use two-step authentication
Two-step authentication is a great thing for controlling when someone tries to log into one of your accounts. Even if they have your password and username, often times with two-step authentication they will also need a code that is sent to your phone to log in or complete an action. This is useful in a smart home when it comes to things like purchases. At the moment on the Amazon Alexa device it’s possible to order items online using your voice such as a new MacBook pro. There are two settings on this, one with no confirmation which allows Alexa to order whatever is said without confirmation and one with a code that will need to be entered. We recommend using the option with the code to stop unauthorized purchases on your account.
Using two-factor authentication on any services you frequently use or value which do have the feature available is a great idea and will help to greatly to protect your accounts.