A Beginner’s Guide to Smart Homes

    What is a smart home?
    A smart home is any home that uses smart devices or appliances that connect to the internet. These devices can range from the traditional types such as computer and mobile phones, to devices such as TVs, gaming consoles, light bulbs and cameras. What makes a smart device different to a standard fridge or TV remote in your home is that these devices are connected to the internet through your home network router or a mobile phone. They can also collect and store data about you.

    What are the risks to a smart home?

    The more smart devices there are in your home, the greater the number of potential targets for hackers. Devices could be hijacked if attackers manage to guess or crack the passwords protecting them, or exploit flaws in the underlying software (firmware) that runs them. This is made easier because some devices don’t require a user to install a password; they simply run with an easy-to-guess factory default.

    There are three main risk types facing the smart home:

    1. Physical danger

    Devices could be remotely controlled by attackers to watch the family. For example, by hijacking feeds from smart security cameras, or other sensors around the house such as smart door and window locks, burglars could work out when the property is empty.

    2. Data loss

    These same devices are also a potential gateway into the home network, which could allow hackers to grab passwords for your key online accounts like banking and email. Any data they collect on you can be sold on the dark web and used for future identity fraud. The router is in many ways the digital gateway to your smart home — the place where all your internet traffic passes through. That makes it particularly vulnerable to these kinds of attacks.

    3. Hijacked devices becoming botnets

    Your smart home gadgets and router could be hijacked and remotely controlled. Not to install ransomware or steal data from your family, but to use in attacks on others and do the bidding of hackers.

    What can I do to protect myself?

    • Change factory default passwords to strong and unique credentials
    • Switch on two-factor authentication
    • Regularly check for firmware updates and apply as soon as they’re available
    • Set up a guest network on your router, which will help protect your main network, its devices and data, from network worms and other malware inadvertently introduced by guests
    • Protect your computers and smartphones with AV and only download legitimate smart home apps. Trend Micro Device Security Ultimate offers protection for smart homes as well as for PC, Mac, Android and iOS devices
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