How to Keep Your Family Safe While Geeking Out Your Home

June 12, 2018

If there’s one trend that’s really taking off right now, it’s the Internet of Things (IoT), those “various devices [that] are all networked together and communicate with each other.” And it’s really tempting to jump on the smart tech bandwagon, automating everything from your morning cup of coffee to the kids’ night lights.

But the IoT isn’t without some inherent dangers. As standards and protocols are still developing, smart home devices can become potential weak spots for hacking or security breaches. That can be a real concern for family homes.

So, is it possible to jump on the home automation train while still keeping your loved ones and property safe? Yes—with the right precautions. Below are some practical ways you can ensure your family and home stay secure as you geek out with smart tech.

Secure Your Router

Your router acts as the gate to the internet for all your smart devices, so you’ll want to ensure that your router is secure. Make sure it has a strong, complex password, and check that the firmware is up to date. Consider giving your Wi-Fi network a unique name (not your address or last name) and disable guest network access.

If possible, you can even create two separate Wi-Fi networks, so you can keep your devices cordoned off. That way, people in your home can connect to one main network for regular internet use, while all smart devices can connect to the other network.

Create Strong Passwords

From online banking to email and social media, today’s world requires a lot of passwords. While it may seem overwhelming to remember all of them, having secure passwords makes it harder for a potential hacker to access your connected devices and accounts—and even your personal information. Here are a few tips when creating your passwords:

  • Change the passwords on your smart devices from their default factory settings.
  • Use passwords that are difficult to guess and that use a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols.
  • Don’t use easy-to-guess (i.e., abc123) passwords, and avoid incorporating personal information, like your name or birthday.
  • Change your passwords every few months, and don’t use the same password for multiple accounts—especially for online banking or other accounts with highly personal information.
  • Consider enabling two-step verification on your accounts.
Teach Your Children to Be Smart About Their Tech

The whole family can and should help keep connected devices secure. Teach your children to use strong passwords, to connect to secure Wi-Fi networks (not public Wi-Fi), and to avoid suspicious emails or links.

Adults and teens should update their gadgets regularly by installing the most recent software—helping safeguard the devices from malware and other online threats. For toddlers and younger kids who may have access to iPads or other similar devices for games and YouTube videos, make sure they can only access safe and kid-friendly apps.

Do Your Research

Before purchasing a new smart device, research the brand and its security reputation, and check what security measures are in place. Choose a well-known and reliable brand that will patch any exposed security flaws quickly.

You may also want to consider using the same platform (e.g., Apple, Samsung, Google) for all your smart home gadgets, to minimize the overall number of platforms you use. Additionally, you should disconnect any devices from the internet that don’t actively need access—each connected device can become a gateway into your network, so limit that exposure as much as possible.

Pick Devices That Keep Your Home Physically Secure

If you’ve done your due diligence with the prior steps, you can feel confident about building your smart home network. And the best place to start is with some devices that will help boost your home’s physical security.

Smart smoke detectors, for example, can alert you of any potential smoke or gas hazards early, so you can ensure your home and family are free from fire danger. Smart locks are another great asset for home security—they’ll alert you if the door was left unlocked (and let you lock it remotely), in case you forget in the morning rush to get the kids to school. Plus, there are even smart security systems, both professional and DIY, that can allow you more comprehensive insight into the comings and goings of anyone in the home.

When used correctly, connected tech can make your home smarter and safer than ever. Just follow these tips to keep your devices—and those who use them—safe from unwanted threats.

Written by

Scott Bay

Scott Bay is a digital journalist who reports on the latest technology trends, focusing specifically on travel, online security, and wellness. He currently lives in Salt Lake City and has reported for Wired, Mind Body Green, and Architectural Digest.