The above statement may sound like a strange question, but it’s a legitimate one. The Internet of Things (IoT) represents a tremendous opportunity for both commercial and home use. Smart devices including thermostats, microwaves and refrigerators, can now be integrated into your home network through an internet protocol (IP) address, just as if they were a computer, smartphone or tablet. And while this represents a great convenience for consumers, it also represents a great opportunity for hackers.
Recently, the largest Distributed Denial-of-Service Attack (DDoS) was launched against French hosting provider OVH. It was a massive attack of about one Terabyte per second (Tbps) of server requests from more than150,000 hacked smart devices. This attack dwarfs the attack just the week before on journalist Brian Krebs’ website of between 620 and 665 Gigabyte per second (Gbps).
An attack of this magnitude can crush even the most resilient network security solutions. In a nutshell, your home appliances may already be part of a botnet of millions of infected devices. In addition, last year it was reported that manufacturers of IoT devices and home routers were using the same sets of hard-coded secure shell (SSH) cryptographic keys leading to an open season for hackers. So what does a homeowner do to keep their kitchen from becoming an unwilling accomplice in international espionage? Here are a few tips to protect the smart appliances in your home.
- Make sure your home router/firewall has the latest firmware. This is very important in keeping up with newly discovered vulnerabilities in your product.
- When encrypting your device, use a strong password of greater than eight characters. By using just one number and symbol in your password, you can decrease the likelihood of someone hacking your password. If you’re unable to come up with a creative password, there are random password generators available from a number of reputable companies.
- Use the highest encryption available, which is usually Wi-Fi protected access (WPA) for advanced encryption standard (AES) or temporal key integrity protocol (TKIP) for older devices. If the highest encryption available on your home router is wired equivalent privacy (WEP), replace it immediately.
- Mask the service set identifier (SSID) of your wireless network. Doing a scan of wireless networks often shows the names of available networks, and by allowing yours to be viewed, you have already given an intruder 30 percent of the information they need to get in your system. Your system may still show as a strong signal, but the name will remain invisible. This creates an extra set with adding a new device to your network, but it’s worth it for added security.
- Do you have kids? They may have handed out your SSID and password. If possible, set up a guest network on your home router so friends and guests can have access to the internet but not your home network. The last thing you want is a would-be hacker attempting to access your home devices.
While these tips don’t specifically cover hardening of computers, tablets and smartphones, they will help keep them a little safer as well. Remember, you don’t want the convergence of devices on your internet connection to become a path to assimilation. You don’t need Skynet or the Borg operating out of your thermostat.