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Our homes are filled with internet-connected devices. They let us see what’s happening at our homes from wherever we are, get our favorite music and shows with a voice command, or change the temperature on the thermostat from our phone. Here are some steps that can help protect your internet-connected devices from malicious hackers.

Start With Your Router

The key to privacy in the Internet-of-Things (IoT) world is your router. All your connected devices likely connect to the internet through your router.

  • Change the default settings. Start by changing the default administrative username, password, and network name to something unique. Don’t use login names or passwords with your name, your address, or your router brand.
  • Enable encryption. You can enable encryption by going to your administrative settings, then to your wireless security settings.
  • Check for updates. Remember to keep checking for hardware and software updates.

For more advice, including how to set up a guest network, see How To Secure Your Home Wi-Fi Network.

Protect Each Device 

  • Once your router is secure, search for each device connected to your router. To make sure you know which devices are connected, go to your router’s web interface and look for connected devices, wireless clients, or DHCP clients.

    Here are steps to take to protect each device connected to your router:

    • Change the default username and password. If your device came with a default username and password out of the box, change them. When you set a new password, don’t reuse one from another account. Hackers sometimes use stolen usernames and passwords from data breaches to hack your other accounts.
    • Use two-factor authentication. If a device offers two-factor authentication (a password plus something else, like a code sent to your phone or a thumbprint scan), use it.
    • Set up the security features on your device. Take advantage of your device’s security features, like enabling encryption or setting up a passcode lockout to add another layer of protection to your device.
    • Update your device regularly. Check for updates to the firmware (the software on the device). You may need to do this on the manufacturer’s website. Also, if your device is accessible through an app on your phone, use the most up-to-date version of the app.
    • Disable or disconnect what you don’t use. Disable features you won’t use. If you won’t use remote management, it’s best to disable it. Also, disconnect older devices you no longer use from the network. Their security may be out of date, creating a weak point on your network.

    Here are other steps to take for some of the most common connected devices you may have in your home.

    Smart TVs

    Are you worried about your smart TV watching you? Find your TV’s tracking settings and change them to match your privacy preferences. Also make sure to remove apps you don’t use. They can collect data on your behavior even when you’re not using them.

    IP cameras

    What about IP cameras (like baby, pet, or security cams) that offer live video and audio feeds you can see remotely over the internet? Many IP cameras are vulnerable to digital snooping. So, in addition to changing the default settings, check the camera’s access logs regularly for unauthorized access. Look for things like IP addresses you don’t recognize or odd access times that don’t fit your normal patterns. You can check the logs through your administrative settings. For more advice, read Using IP Cameras Safely.

    Voice assistants

    Voice assistants can respond to your every command. But they can also listen all the time and even send recordings to the manufacturer. For advice about privacy and voice assistants, read How To Secure Your Voice Assistant and Protect Your Privacy.

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