Smart devices in your home

Any appliance or device that connects to the internet – including toys, printers, fridges, smart kettles, TVs and even baby monitors and thermostats – is called a smart device.

Want to turn your air conditioner on remotely so your home is cool by the time you get there? Stream programs directly to your TV? Control your oven from an app?

These new ‘smart’ appliances, toys and gadgets make our life incredibly easy and comfortable, but they also come with cyber security risks.

On average, Australians have around 17 connected devices in their homes, with this figure expected to double in the next four years.

Security experts are predicting that some of the biggest cyber attacks of the future will exploit smart devices.

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’ to bring down other networks.

A botnet is a collection of devices that might include your computer, mobile phone and other devices that are connected to the internet, which are infected and remotely controlled to carry out malicious activities. Typically, the owner of the device has no way of knowing a botnet has infected their system.

Your smart devices could also be hacked to use connected cameras to spy on whoever is using them. Again, the owner of the device has no way of knowing the device has been hacked.

Smart devices have been hacked for other purposes as well. For example, medical devices such as insulin pumps and implanted cardioverter defibrillators have been hacked to change the way they should work.

Think twice about buying second-hand

Be wary of buying second-hand smart devices off sites such as eBay and Gumtree. They might seem like a bargain but could pose potential risks.

When you buy a smart device from a third-party seller, it’s a lot more difficult to tell where they have come from, whether you’re getting exactly what you think you’re getting, and if it’s been tampered with since it was manufactured.

Make sure it has the latest firmware, downloaded from the manufacturer’s website or app.

Securing smart appliances, toys and 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 software updates are set to apply automatically on any devices. 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.