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Smart devices: internet enabled appliances, gadgets and toys

Any device that has internet connectivity, including toys, printers, fridges, TVs, even smart kettles can be exploited and used against you or someone else.

In this modern world, we are surrounded by convenience with greater automation happening all the time.

Want to turn your air conditioner on so your home is cool by the time you get there? Stream programs directly to your TV? Control your oven from an app? More and more you can operate home appliances through an app on your phone. 

On average, Australians have around 14 connected devices in their homes, with this figure expected to double in the next four years.

These appliances and ‘smart’ devices that are connected to the internet are part of what is known as the Internet of Things (IoT) – a vast array of internetworked ‘things’ ranging from domestic appliances to buildings and vehicles.

They make our life incredibly easy and comfortable, but they also come with risks.

So what can happen?

In 2016, a massive online attack that reportedly targeted some of the world’s highest profile websites—including Twitter, PayPal and Spotify—used baby monitors, among other devices, to carry out the attack.

Unprotected devices like these can be co-opted into a ‘botnet’—a network of computers enlisted to deliver a distributed denial of service (DDOS) attack, without the knowledge of the owner—to bring down other networks. Your smart devices could also be hacked to use connected cameras to spy on users. Typically, the owner of the device has no way of knowing when the device has been compromised.

Securing smart devices:

  • Whenever possible, change any default passwords on the device to a secure and private password. If unsure, look up how to change the device settings on the manufacturer’s official website or contact their customer service centre. Learn how to create and remember strong passwords.
  • Make sure your business wireless network is properly secured. Learn how to protect your network.
  • Understand how any stored data (usage patterns, office activity, etc.) will be managed by reading the terms and conditions of use.
  • Ensure software updates are set to apply automatically on your device. Learn about updates.
  • Follow all instructions when installing and configuring the settings for the device.

You should also continue to be vigilant about protecting these devices throughout their lifespan.