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What is the internet of things?

If you have a smart kettle, a smart TV, or even a smart doorbell, then you’re using the internet of things. This is a network of smart devices in your home that connect to the internet, which is how you can turn your kettle on from the comfort of your bedroom. 

‘Smart’ devices, and why they aren’t that smart

When we talk about smart devices, we’re talking about devices that have the ability to connect to the internet. If you stop to think about it, that’s a huge amount of devices. It doesn’t just stop at your phone and computer, your Amazon Echo or Google Home is a smart device. If you can connect to your printer wirelessly, that’s probably a smart device too. You can even get children’s toys that are connected to the internet. 

Smart devices have really taken off in the last few years, and it’s easy to see why. Smart devices are incredibly convenient, allowing us to literally say a command and change our heating, lighting and check who is at the door without even lifting a finger. With the move towards more wireless solutions for our technology, and the desire to access everything that we need regardless of where we are, internet connectivity makes a lot of sense.

Unfortunately, a lot of ‘smart’ devices aren’t really that smart - at least, certainly not from a security perspective. Although it’s great that your fridge can tell you exactly which snacks you’re running low on without you even having to open the door, when we connect things to the internet this results in a huge amount of security vulnerabilities. Companies that create smart devices often don’t have security in mind when they’re creating products, and that can cause problems for customers. 

Why your smart doorbell is a security concern

Let’s start with a smart doorbell. Once you’ve got it all set up, you can check your phone whenever someone is at the door, wherever you are; on holiday, in the office, literally anywhere with an internet connection. The problem is that someone else could get access to it it aswell. 

Because this device connects to the internet, it means that someone could feasibly hack into your device. Although this might sound like something from black mirror, it’s been widely reported on, with everything from kids toys to baby monitors.

Someone who gains unauthorized access to one of your smart devices is then able to access that device as if it was theirs. That could mean turning it off and on, causing damage, or take the device hostage and ask for ransom to return access to you. If the device has speakers, microphones or cameras, it could even mean that someone could speak through the device, and listen or watch what is happening around the device. 

How can I keep my smart devices secure?

This might all sound terrifying, but there are things that you can do (besides throwing your smart devices into the sea). Firstly, before you purchase a device, check the manufacturer. Pick brands that you trust, and that have considered security when they’re making the devices. 

The most important thing you can do is change any default passwords on your devices. Often your smart device will come with a generic password, which hackers can easily find and use to gain access. As soon as your smart device arrives, change that password.

Finally, check for any software updates. It might seem ridiculous that your fridge now needs a Windows update before you can open the door, but these updates protect your device and install security bugs and patches. These are essential for keeping your devices secure.

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