A 2021 study by Deloitte found that the average American internet household owns 23 connected devices. That’s an increase from an average of 11 devices in 2019, and that number is increasing each year. When we think of devices, we mostly consider our smartphones, home computers, and tablets. Increasingly, though, WIFI-enabled gadgets like televisions, thermostats, home security systems, and even kitchen appliances are being included in that list. Some predict the average will increase to as many as 50 devices per American household by the end of 2022.
Sure, it’s convenient to adjust your home thermostat from work or check your refrigerator from the dairy aisle. However, this convenience comes with an often-overlooked security risk. Every connected device provides a window for someone with malicious intent to access the personal information stored on that device. Even worse, they can gain access to your home network. If someone gains access to your network, they can easily access your personal data by "listening" to your internet traffic. They can also launch various attacks, such as malware or ransomware.
This article from the Federal Trade Commission offers insight about the importance of protecting your connected devices and home network. Below, we’re providing a checklist to help you reduce your risk.
Make A List of Your Connected Devices
Have you considered before how many devices in your home are connected to the internet? Start with a list before moving on to the next step. Don’t forget things like smart plugs and WIFI-enabled bulbs and appliances.
Complete Any System Updates
You want to make sure that each mobile device is running the latest operating system. Software developers release updates to address vulnerabilities as soon as they become aware of them. Set your devices to update automatically so your information is protected as soon as possible. If you prefer to run updates manually, stay aware of when they become available and install them immediately. This includes your phone, tablets, and the apps contained within them. For smart home devices, the vulnerable connection point is through the apps that manage them. For that reason, it is crucial that those remain current as well.
Utilize Security Software on Home Computers
Computers often hold the most personal information of any device in your home. Ensure that you have up-to-date antivirus software on all desktops and laptops in your home. Most of these applications now go well beyond checking for viruses and malware. They are constantly running in the background, deleting unwanted cookies, and tracking codes. Think of it as an insurance policy for your files and information, and make sure every device has current protection.
Secure Your Account Logins
Some antivirus software will also run security checks to inform you of weak and overused passwords. Ensure that your passwords are always at least 12 characters and not easily guessed. Additionally, you should consider adding multi-factor authentication (sometimes referred to as MFA) wherever possible. This extra layer of protection requires your password and a code that is texted or emailed to you for login.
Check Your Home Network Security Settings
It might seem like there’s no easy way to protect every smart device in your home. But the best action you can take is to update your router password on a regular basis. You should never have an open network connection, and your password shouldn’t be easy to figure out. Your password should be at least 12 characters and contain letters, numbers, and special characters. It doesn’t need to be impossible to remember but think in terms of random combinations of words and numbers. It should not be something easy to guess like your last name and street number.
Remember, if you ever suspect your identity has been compromised for any reason, act immediately. As a Smarter, Smart or Fresh Start checking account holder, you have access to identity protection benefits. Our identity theft protection specialists are trained to fully manage your identity recovery and are standing by to help.