Here’s what you can do to prevent your smart-home devices from being hijacked


Step No. 1: Strong passwords.

Last Friday, major portions of the internet were shut down after an attack seized control of hundreds of thousands of internet-connected devices that were then weaponized to route hundreds of gigabytes of junk traffic at once to Dyn, a major domain name service provider. It was more than Dyn could process, and websites like Twitter, the New York Times and Netflix were offline for hours.

Hackers were able to commandeer internet-connected devices that failed to properly password protect their connection or continued to use the easily crackable factory-default password after installation.

While the onus of securing electronics primarily falls on the hardware and software manufacturers — as well as federal regulators — responsible for bringing products safely to market, there are steps device owners can take to make sure their home machines don’t get coaxed into becoming part of a malicious bot-army.

Password protect everything

The first line of defense against hackers is to password protect your Wi-Fi router. The factory-given password isn’t good enough. Be sure to create your own unique passphrase, a sequence of words that’s likely to be much stronger than whatever alphanumeric password you may typically use across accounts (an ill-advised practice).

Also, change your router’s network ID name from the default given with the device, which will make it harder for attackers to know the kind of hardware you use.

Don’t buy internet-connected devices that don’t allow you to password protect the connection. And as soon as you install a new device, change the factory-set password immediately.

Update and encrypt your hardware

Routers more than a few years old should be replaced. And don’t use the router provided by your Internet provider, as they are notorious for having severe security flaws.

Turn on your router’s encryption — WPA2 is a trusted standard in most router settings.

If any of your devices signal that it’s time for a software update, do not delay. Install the updated software immediately in case any security vulnerabilities were patched.

Turn it off

Disconnect your devices from the internet when they’re not in use or if you have no need for that level of networking. Many devices only need to connect to other devices on your home network and don’t require full access to the world wide web.

Some devices, though, do require internet connectivity, which is fine. Just make sure they’re properly locked down.

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