Springtime is when people take the time to dive into their New Year’s resolution, cleaning and organizing their homes and getting rid of the old. But are you also thinking about cleaning up your cyber life?
Just as you remove old clutter from your home, you should regularly check your smart devices to make sure everything is in tip-top shape. This includes updating software, hardware and managing your security. Here are five different things you should do now to spring clean your smart home.
Change your passwords
The first thing you should do is change your passwords and look into a password manager. Changing your passwords regularly is a simple security measure that ensures you don’t use old and easily guessed passwords. Many programs and services automatically remind you to change your passwords, especially when it comes to work.
If you’re bad at keeping track of passwords or coming up with strong passwords, look into a password manager. Programs like 1Password or Dashlane keep a list of all your passwords, suggest new secure passwords for you, and help you change them all in one source vault. You only need to remember the primary password to get into your vault. It’s a lot easier to remember one password than 50 because each password should be unique and hard to guess. Some services like Chrome and iCloud have built-in password managers that you can use.
A quick rule for creating your own password is to use numbers, symbols, and capital letters and make them a random sequence of words—but a longer password is always better than a complex password. The combination of length and complexity results in a much stronger password.
Enable two-factor authentication
Another source of security is enabling two-factor authentication (2FA). 2FA creates a second layer of hard encryption to preserve your data. You don’t need to know all the encryption details; You usually only need a phone number or a second device to access your data. Suppose you want to subscribe to a service. This service will call you or send a random code to your phone or display the code on a secondary device. You enter this code into your login device within a certain time limit to log in.
Making sure you’re the only one logging into your devices keeps your security high. You can then trust specific devices so you can log in without 2FA every time.
You should also regularly check the list of trusted devices to make sure there’s nothing old or unused there – or worse, that an unknown device has made it onto the list.
Check for software updates
It’s best to turn on automatic updates, but you should definitely take a day to check all your devices and operating systems to make sure everything is up to date. In addition to introducing new features and quality of life changes, organizations are using software updates to improve the security features of their devices.
You will want to make sure that all devices in the ecosystem are up to date as well. If a cloud-based device is vulnerable, it can create a hole in the entire ecosystem. Remember that individual devices need to be checked. For example, if you have multiple smart speakers, make sure each speaker is running the latest version of the software.
Update your devices
If you have the means, upgrade your old devices. Planned obsolescence isn’t a confirmed policy from technology manufacturers, but companies will eventually stop supporting devices. When devices reach end of life, they no longer receive these security software updates and are vulnerable to newer security hacking methods.
You don’t always have to have the latest and greatest device, but the technology is very vulnerable when it’s no longer supported but still connects to the internet. End of life generally occurs after five years, and technology can improve significantly over that time.
Upgrading your devices is especially important given recent Wyze reports that the original version of the camera suffered from a security vulnerability for three years, but only subsequent versions were patched.
Consolidate your devices
Finally, try to consolidate your devices into one ecosystem or brand. While this may seem counterintuitive, it generally makes managing devices easier. Having all devices under Google Assistant, Apple HomeKit or Amazon’s Alexa provides one place to see your smart home. This can be used as a quick stop to organize and check to make sure devices haven’t become disconnected from your home and gone rogue.
By following these five steps, you will ensure your smart home is as protected as possible. Of course, you can progress through the use of VPNs, hardware keys, and other security measures, but following these basics will give you a lot more breathing room. No security measure is perfect, but following a few basic practices will greatly reduce your risk.