How can I protect myself from digital attacks?

Have you ever considered your home network security a priority? Have you ever done anything to ensure your home network is safe from hackers?

We’ve all heard or read some really scary stories about people’s accounts being accessed, passwords being stolen, and nursery cameras being hacked and used to scare the people at home, but few people have actually done something to ensure their home network is properly secured against unwanted intrusions.

With all these stories going around,  it’s only natural for all of us to be scared about adding more smart devices and potentially letting someone control our home, but when done correctly there is not much to worry about. There are several ways for you to secure your home network and your devices against unwanted intrusions.

To properly secure our home network and devices I’d like to simplify things a lot by breaking it down into two large categories you need to be aware of. The first one is local security, which means securing out home network and ensuring no one can access it. This includes your wifi signal, smart devices that can only be accessed through your home network, etc. The second category would be to ensure cloud accessible devices are secure. Cloud devices are those which can be accessed directly through the internet, either on an app or directly. Let’s talk more about them:

Cloud Accessible Devices

Many of our smart devices today are cloud accessible. This means that no matter where in the world you are, as long as you have an internet connection, you can access and control your devices. This is perhaps one of the greatest benefits of smart devices, but when not secured properly it’s also one of the most common issues with security.

Not long ago there was a pretty scary story in the news about how a couple had woken up to a stranger talking to their daughter through their cloud camera. They immediately stated they had been hacked and that the hacker had been speaking to their daughter through the camera, warning parents about the risk of having a smart camera connected to the internet. Not long after this incident, the company that makes that specific camera publicly announced that their security was top of the line and they had never been hacked, which leads us to a key question “So then how did this happen?”

There are two ways in which someone could have gained access to the camera. The first one (which the company immediately said was not the issue) is to actually hack into the company’s system and access your camera directly. This means the hacker would have had to gain access to the camera’s company (let’s say for example Nest Camera and then once in control of the entire system access your camera. This is not an easy feat if we consider that most reputable companies invest millions of dollars in their cybersecurity to make sure this doesn’t happen.
The second way someone could have hacked into the camera is to target the user’s account directly (something much easier than to break into the company’s system). For someone to access your account, they’d need your username and password. Unfortunately, password security is still not something many people consider critical, and because it’s sometimes hard to remember dozens of complicated passwords they choose simple and easy to guess passwords which are re-used for many of their accounts.
A simple and easy to guess the password (such as “name123” would make it extremely easy for someone to hack into your account, making you vulnerable. We won’t talk about how hackers guess passwords for now, but there are many ways in which they can very easily “guess” it.
So, for us to properly secure our devices that are accessible through the cloud, it’s critical to choose a complex password and not give it to anyone, change it often, and don’t use the same one for multiple accounts!

Home Network Security

Now let’s talk about our home network and how to prevent anyone from gaining access to our home network. This aspect is perhaps even less thought of than passwords! (And that’s a scary thing). When we get our home internet setup, we don’t even think of, or even question what kind of security the router has. We simply get the password that is set by default, sometimes even change it for something “easier to remember” and go about our business. We sometimes share it with just about anyone coming into our home or our neighbors without realizing this is a potential point of entry for someone looking to gain access to all of our devices.

There are many ways in which we can secure our home network, some of them as simple as choosing a complex password and not sharing it with anyone who we don’t trust. However, if we really want to be safe and protect our network, we might want to take a look at a properly designed network, with a firewall and a guest network that will limit the access and block areas that should not be accessed by people not authorized. Let’s talk about them:

Passwords

The first and most obvious way to protect our home network is to create and set a complex password that is not easy to guess. Don’t give the password away freely, make sure you configure all your devices at home with the password and don’t let anyone outside your household know what your password is. This way, all your devices will automatically connect to your network when in range, but you will make sure no one who is un-authorized gains access to your network. If you have guests or need to share your home internet, consider creating a guest network.

Guest Network

A guest network, as the name suggests, is a separate wireless network in your home that will allow anyone who isn’t part of your trusted household to access the internet freely while at your house. That being said, there are many important advantages of having a guest network. The first one is that it limits the access of the devices connected to it. That means that the devices will be able to navigate and use the internet but will not be able to access other home devices or anything else connected to your network, adding an important level of security. Think about them as being able to navigate the internet but never speak to anyone/anything else in your home. The second very useful aspect of a separate guest network is the fact that you can frequently change the password of it without impacting all your devices and having to re-configure them again. When creating a guest network at home you need to make sure it’s set up properly for it to limit access to the right areas and not interfere with the rest of your devices, but it’s definitely something I would suggest everyone setup.

Firewall

Perhaps the least known method of securing your home network is a firewall. A firewall acts like a barrier limiting the contact the devices inside your network can have with the outside, and vice versa. This is very important when we think of actual hackers trying to push their way into our home network. A properly set up and powerful firewall will stop anyone from being able to access it. Most routers today already have some sort of firewall installed, however, some of them are basic and not properly configured, which could lead us to a false sense of security; think of a wooden fence with a bunch of holes in it!
To set up a proper firewall, you can think of either a dedicated firewall device (probably more than what an average household would require) or a more robust router with a serious focus on security which can then be configured to stop any unwanted traffic. Enterprise-level routers have a much more powerful sense of security, making them ideal to protect your home network. I personally like UniFi as it provides a relatively inexpensive solution to this problem, which is also fairly simple to configure!

I hope this got you thinking about ways you can make your network and devices more secure! Comment below, and let us know what you think, and how we can help you!

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