Your guide to securing the smart devices you’ll give and receive this holiday.

I’ll never forget the first time my television sent me an email. It was a few years ago, when smart devices weren’t common and the Internet of Things (IoT) was more concept than reality.  That beautiful, freshly unboxed flatscreen stared at me as I read the welcome email, my Boxing Day shopping glee evaporating, as thoughts of Skynet raced through my mind.

While a couple of Google searches helped me better understand the IoT and convinced me I probably didn’t need to keep an eye out for the Terminator, I never looked at my television the same way.  It and the manufacturer had the ability to know a lot more about me than any other appliance I ever had.  While I still wanted to use the cool Internet enabled features, I realized my security and privacy could be at stake.

Fast forward to now and just about everything is a smart, IoT device – your refrigerator, thermostat, home security system, watch, car, mobile phone, vacuum, baby monitor, entertainment system, and even your children’s toys are likely IoT devices!  While these products offer amazing and life-improving features, we as users have to be mindful how, when and what information these devices are collecting and sharing about us.

Thankfully, there are steps we can take to limit the amount of personal information being shared by third parties all while protecting our privacy and security.

Stay up to date

Always install the latest updates on all of your IoT devices. Security patches for potential vulnerabilities are developed and released as they’re discovered, so regularly installing the latest updates can help you avoid potential pitfalls.

Use a separate network

Many Wi-Fi routers allow you to set up a separate guest network, so you can limit access from untrusted sources. Creating a separate network to connect your smart devices ensures devices with questionable security can’t gain access to shared files and other sensitive data on your regular home network. Check out your router manufacturer’s website or click here for general instructions.

Pass on Universal Plug and Play

While Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) is designed to make connecting devices to a home network easy, it also makes them easy for attackers to discover. Hackers can potentially discover and exploit these devices from outside your network via specialized search engines. When possible, turn off Universal Plug and Play on your IoT devices and router by referring to each device’s user manual.

Confirm and configure your connection

Just because your refrigerator can connect to the Internet doesn’t mean it needs to. Review the features you’d like to use, confirm if Internet access is required and check your device privacy settings. If the device requires the Internet, configure for maximum control over the amount of information your device collects and shares.

Passwords, passwords, passwords!

Create a different and strong password for each device. This way, should someone gain unauthorized access to one device, other devices won’t be compromised. How will you remember all those passwords? Consider using an online app to help you keep track of your accounts and passwords – KeePass Password Safe is one of several possible solutions.

Use these tips to safely enjoy the smart devices you’re gifted this holiday season (or find come Boxing Day!). Happy Holidays!