Ah, security. The part of computing where we feel like dogs chasing our tails as it’s a never ending process, but good news everyone, here are some tips to help manage all this stuff!
Before we dive into the nitty gritty, I do have good news to share. The US government has launched it’s long-awaited Internet of things Cyber Trust Mark program (aka IoT and smart home gadgetry) which will bring to the masses some sense of security. When it will be fully implemented, vendors will have the opportunity to go though the motion and receive a “certification” for the device doing no evil. A good step in the right direction! Extra reading from the White House and many media outlets have reported on this too like TechCrunch.
So for securing things here is a list of suggestions, if you have more please let me know!
- Wi-Fi: make sure you don’t share your main Wi-Fi password with potential hooligans and other mischievous characters. If you need to get visitors onto Wi-Fi set up the “Guest Network” option in your router, it will grant them access to the Internet only, not your network.
- Speaking of which, old routers and new ones need to have their vitamins, errrr, security patches! It’s known as a “firmware update” do check regularly. If you can’t get new ones say for 2+ years, time to change the gear. Sucks but safer is better.
- Don’t use the same password everywhere, and consider using a good password manager like 1Passworrd or Dash Lane. If you get a “family plan” you can share passwords amongst the users which simplifies things. Plus who can remember all the passwords along with the long cryptic secure ones? It’s worth looking into as many smart home trinkets will need a username and a password.
- Use multifactor authentication if you can, it’s where you get an additional challenge after login/password, like getting a confirmation by SMS to prevent evildoers from evildoing.
- Be smart and manage user privileges, don’t give “super user” or “administrator” level access to everybody, just key individuals. I mean kids should not be able to mess with things, same for the “brother-in-law”.
- On every computer, use antivirus software, do not listen to the naysayers, and be mindful of what you install.
- Read reviews from smart home experts and security firms if you’re not sure if you should get a product or as in places like Reddit’s Smart Home subreddit. My take on this is a bit like food products, “if you can’t pronounce the ingredients don’t eat it” becomes “if you’ve never seen the brand or can’t pronounce it” be wary. Plenty of “weird” brands out there on Amazon or Wal-Mart’s marketplaces. Ick.
- VLANs! Da heck is that? VLAN = Virtual LAN or virtual network. You need “business-grade” gear to do this but if you can shield your home network from your devices accessing what they should not see, it can be a plus. Is it complicated for non-geeks? Yes, it’s not for everyone but there are plenty of guides out there to get you started like this one.