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December 04, 2018

Smart Home Protection: Tips for Maintaining Privacy and Security

Digital Security

A smart home offers a lot: it can save you money on your household bills, keep your home and family safe and secure, and make your life easier through everyday conveniences that save you time and hassle. With these benefits come some trade-offs, as well as new steps you’ll need to take to make sure your home is still your own, private castle.

Smart home security and automation devices need remote access, and they need to know some personal data about you—such as when you’re typically at home, when you’re away, and much more. Remote access and data are both highly valuable tools when it comes to the Internet of Things (IoT) home devices—where everything and everyone is “connected.” However, your family and data need to be protected so smart home data collection is not used against you. If hackers were able to access your connection, not only could they cause you trouble, but they could co-opt your Internet-connected devices to cause more far-reaching damage. Here are some tips for optimizing the IoT privacy and security of your smart home devices and security systems.

Use strong passwords

When you get a new smart home device installed, make sure to give it a new, strong password. Never use the default password that came with the device which would make the device easily accessible to hackers. Strong passwords should contain letters, numbers, and special characters; they should not include common words found in the dictionary or personally identifiable clues (such as pet names or street addresses).

Always update your devices

We’ve gotten used to updating our phones and computers, and now we need to do the same thing with our door locks, smart thermostats, and security systems. Software or firmware updates for your smart home devices can bring new features, as well as patch security holes discovered by the manufacturer. Always allow any updates a device asks for, and if you can, make sure to turn on automatic updates. If your connected device never asks for an update, go to the manufacturer’s website for more information on how to get updates.

When buying a new device, we recommend you choose one that will push all updates automatically. Look at the device’s history online to see how often updates are released—the more often, the better.

Upgrade your router

Your wireless router is your smart home’s biggest vulnerability, but it’s also your first and best line of defense against hackers. Make sure you have a strong network password; don’t use an identifiable network name (CyberSecurity is better than 713CrescentSt, for example); and keep the firmware up-to-date. If your router is more than five years old, get a new one—both for security reasons and because you’ll likely get faster speeds. Make sure it has WPA2 level security (not the older, more easily compromised WEP security).

Take care of your network

Install cameras inside your home, especially in more private spaces such as bedrooms. For security purposes, it’s highly effective to install cameras that only keep an eye on the outside of your home. Or, position one in a hallway directed towards the door, so you can capture comings and goings rather than everyday activities.

To keep a closer eye on activity within the home—such as a nanny cam, puppy cam or baby monitor—make sure you activate the “Home” feature on your smart camera. You can also turn on the rules for your security system that will turn the cameras off when you’re safe at home.

Silence voice-activated speakers

Internet-connected smart speakers record what you say to them and can also “listen” to ambient noise in your home, waiting for their wake-word. If you want to be sure no one is listening at certain times, press the mute button on the device to deactivate its listening feature until you want to use it again.

Read Privacy Agreements

When you install an app for a new device, look over the privacy agreement to see if there’s anything that seems unreasonable for the gadget you’re using.

Learn more about how Xfinity Home can help you protect your smart home connections with secure networks, professional installation, and other advanced features.

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