Smart home technology is on the rise. How many of those devices have you installed that automate your ability to control items with a voice command, toggle button or a finger swipe left or right? They range from voice assistants and video doorbells to more unique capabilities related to pet feeders, lawn mowers and now expanded sidewalk connectivity. A smart plug can automate just about anything you plug into it, such as a lamp or a pool pump. All these appliances and devices connect to the internet and make up what's called the “Internet of Things." Consumers and cybercriminals alike may wonder, just how secure are each of these smart devices?

“You may embrace this new technology simply for the convenience it offers or maybe for the novelty. But each device that is connected to your network offers a new point of entry for cybercriminals if the devices aren't adequately secured," said Samuel Strohm, senior vice president, Security Defense Office at The PNC Financial Services Group, Inc.

Learn more about the Internet of Things and steps you may take to mitigate the risks of cybercriminals while enjoying the benefits of a modern, smart home.

How it works:

Smart home devices that comprise the Internet of Things have embedded chips, sensors, software and network connectivity that must do one or all of the following to perform as desired:

  • collect data,
  • exchange data, or
  • analyze data.

The devices are designed to solve a problem, such as: The house is too hot or too cold; The front door needs to be locked after you've already left for the office; and A pacemaker must send vital data to a doctor to ensure your well-being. Cybercriminals crave the data. Data being collected and shared by your devices create a honey pot of information for identity thieves and other cybercriminals. In addition, each device potentially is a doorway into your home network and anything connected to it, including your computer. “Cybercriminals seek ways to exploit any vulnerabilities and to take advantage of consumers. No device is off limits to cybercriminals, including children's toys that are connected to the internet. Criminals will find any tiny opening into a network," said Strohm.

What actions can you take:

When it comes to connected devices, proceed with caution using basic cybersecurity good hygiene, including the tips below:

  • Research the product and the manufacturer prior to purchase to understand how the brand prioritizes security. One indication is a history of the manufacturer offering security patches or software updates.

  • Use a separate network for your smart devices. This way, if cybercriminals should find a way into your connected devices, they can't access the information on your personal computer, such as bank account information, as it would be accessible on a different network.

  • Protect your cellphone or tablet. It is important not to “misplace" these items when they are loaded with apps that control your smart home devices.

  • Do not use public Wi-Fi when remotely activating or checking your device.

  • Change the default settings (username, passwords) that come with your device. If you cannot change the default setting, consider purchasing a different brand that permits you to do so.

  • Use strong passwords. Set up each device with a unique password and opt for one-time passcodes and/or biometrics when available.

  • Disable features that you are not using. Features such as remote access and voice control can be enabled if/when the need arises.

  • Keep track of all the devices connected to your network and the type of data being collected.

  • Disconnect any device from your network when not in use.