5 Key Steps to Protecting Your Smart Home

Reprinted from RISMedia’s Housecall

Posted on Apr 17 2017 – 1:12pm by Mikkie Mills

Smart homes open the doors to new technological potential, but they can also open the virtual door to intruders and hackers. As smart home technology grows, so do the risks of being hacked, which can stop some customers from adopting these amazing technologies for their homes. However, protection can make a home incredibly safe from hackers. Here are five ways to keep your smart home safe.

Use Strong Passwords

We’ve all heard it countless times, but having a strong password really is the first step against hackers and is enough to keep the majority of hackers out of your devices. However, many people prioritize creating passwords that are easy to remember (or that don’t change) over their home’s security. The best passwords are a combination of capital and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters. As a general rule of thumb, change your passwords every time you add a new device to the network or at least every few months. There are also reliable password management systems that can keep passwords rotating and safe for all your devices.

Be Selective with Smart Home Devices

The growth of smart home technology means that not every product is created equally. Before bringing something into your home that could put your privacy and safety at risk, be sure to do your research. In general, use products from brands you are familiar with—bigger brands typically have more updates and better customer service just in case hacking does occur. You’ll also want to get feedback from other people who have used the devices by reading reviews from experts and customers online. If you are unsure about a device’s safety, talk to a cybersecurity or smart home professional.

Update Apps and Firmware

Most people generally remember to update their smartphone apps, but updating the apps and firmware in smart devices around the house can be a different story. Just like mobile apps, smart devices are constantly being updated and often come out with updates to increase performance, remove bugs, or improve safety. Using an old version of a device’s firmware makes it easier for hackers to attack because the firmware is vulnerable and not running at its full potential. Firmware and app updates are a great way to stay one step ahead of hackers and can be incredibly powerful—a 2016 update by Apple helped prevent computers and iPhones from being accessed by hackers to use as spy devices. In many cases, you’ll have to seek out updates by going into the app for each smart device. However, making this a part of your regular home maintenance schedule and checking for updates once a month helps keep devices up to date and continually improves their safety measures.

Watch the WiFi Network

Putting smart home devices on a public wireless internet network makes them much easier to hack and makes them more visible to hackers. Instead, opt for a private home network that has a strong password and network protection. To be even safer, security experts recommend putting your smart home devices on a separate wireless network from your home computer, which greatly reduces the risk of hacking across devices. Essentially, if hackers somehow get into devices on one network, they will still have to work hard to get into the other devices.

Turn off Unused Devices

It can be tempting to always leave every device plugged in and turned on, but doing that just gives hackers more opportunities to find a way in. Even though it can seem like a hassle, powering down your home router and computer server when they aren’t in use at night can keep your home network much more secure. Some smart home devices like thermostats and refrigerators will most likely always be plugged in, but devices used less often like TVs or wireless printers can serve as more access points for hackers if they are plugged in but not in use. You’ll safe energy and keep your home safer by turning them off or unplugging them—a win-win situation.

Smart home devices are powerful tools and can greatly improve a home, but they must be used carefully and safely to keep digital intruders out of your home.

About marilynsellshollisterrealestate

I am a native Californian born in Los Angeles and have resided in San Benito County since January 30, 1959. I attended the University of Southern California. I am a licensed Real Estate Broker, license #00409787, active for almost 45 years. I started my career in 1972 and still am totally committed to the highest level of service to my clients. I am currently associated with Intero Real Estate Services. I am Past President of the San Benito Association of Realtors, serving in the role on numerous occasions. I was a Director of the California Association of Realtors for over 18 years, having served on numerous committees. I also served 2 terms representing the California Association of Realtors at the National level, NAR. I am a certified SRES (Senior Real Estate specialist), since 2005. My community involvement has included membership in the Hollister Rotary Club, serving as their first woman President in 2002. In the late 1960's, I became a member of the El Torillo Chapter of Children's Home Society, and served as President, and was also President of the Tri-County Council of CHS, which is today Kinship Center, and I am currently a Senior Active. I am a member of the San Benito Chamber of Commerce. From 2002-2008, I served on the Board of the Hollister Downtown Association and was their President from 2006-2007, and still serve on sub-committees of this organization. And, I am currently serving my 3rd term on the Community Foundation. My record of performance and my reputation have made me who I am in the industry. I am a household name in San Benito County, when you think of Real Estate. My name is recognized not only in Hollister, but in our neighboring counties, Monterey, Santa Cruz and Santa Clara counties. I have been involved in land development, marketed several subdivisions, sold ranches, commercial leasing, bank-owned properties, short sales and own a Property Management Company, Hollister Rental Properties, for more than 35 years. I am proud of my sales record and for the majority of my career I have been in the top 1% of major Real Estate Companies including Van Vleck Realtors, Cornish and Carey, Contempo, Seville-Contempo, Century 21, Coldwell Banker and finally Intero Real Estate services for the last 15 years. Using my skills in negotiating, mediation and transaction closure, during 2010 and 2011, I was involved with the City of Hollister's First Time Home Buyer Down Payment Assistance Program. The program was the City's Redevelopment Agency, under Bill Avera, with the assistance of CJ Valenzuela who was working with the County of San Benito. CHISPA, a non-profit, was responsible for restoring homes to equal to new condition that the City had taken back in foreclosure, or that they had acquired. When the homes were restored, we put them on the Multiple Listing Service and we went out and promoted the City's Down Payment Assistance Program. Buyers were screened and qualified by our preferred lenders. I facilitated workshops for First Time Buyers explaining the programs. I negotiated the contracts for the City of Hollister and with the Buyers. With this program, I closed 2 homes in 2010, and 4 homes in 2011. On a personal note, I am married to Richard Ferreira, a retired General Contractor/Developer. We have a combined family of six daughters, six grandsons and 3 granddaughters. We share commons interests in travel, movies, entertaining, and Richard has picked up my love of cooking. Our spare time is spent with family and enjoying our grandchildren.
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