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How to tackle cyber threats in your home

15 Jan 2019

Smartphones, laptops, tablets, TVs, entertainment systems, smart air conditioning, surveillance systems… they’re all common in the home and all generally connected to one home internet network. 

With one key to so many devices, it’s easy to see why cybercriminals and hackers would be overjoyed if their attack on your modem just so happen to compromise all of those devices.

According to Palo Alto Networks Australia/New Zealand regional vice president Steve Manley, people need to be aware that hackers can use numerous entry points to gain access to home systems.

The consequences, can have terrible consequences for home users – money loss, data loss, and important documents to name a few.

“Sophisticated hackers with access to even the smallest amount of information, such as a person’s email address and password, can potentially infiltrate other devices and accounts connected to the network,” says Manley. 

“Most people’s living rooms are home to multiple screens and devices, often connected to the same email addresses and bank accounts, not to mention payment details stored in Netflix or other streaming service subscriptions. These connections make people’s home lives more convenient, but they also help cybercriminals access personal and financial information.” 

So how should you start securing your devices? The company has provided tips for actions you can take across social media, home routers, TVs, and many more.

1. Social media

Sharing personal information on social media platforms makes it accessible to cybercriminals who can use it to see when people aren’t home, making houses more vulnerable to robberies. A survey by Australian firm GIO found that people update their social media accounts more regularly during holiday seasons. Users should avoid oversharing information on social media, such as pictures of their home or information about new purchases or gifts, to limit the amount of knowledge hackers have about their personal lives and homes. 

2. TV

Smart TVs make it easy to use streaming services, however, many users fail to change their account passwords from the default settings, or, create passwords that are easy to guess, perhaps based on their birthdates or something simple like 1234. Simple, easily-guessable passwords make entertainment accounts relatively easy for hackers to access. In addition, home entertainment isn’t just the physical devices but the apps being used to view content. All apps like those from Netflix, Amazon, Stan, and others have their own passwords to connect to their service. Attackers crack and sell compromised accounts to these services, so it’s essential to use strong, unique passwords for these apps.

3. Laptops and PCs

When these devices manage work documents and data, a successful hack can be devastating. Users need to remember that the ramifications of a data breach through their home network can go far beyond their home life. Users should employ quality network protection and strong passwords, and log out of work email accounts and databases after using them to prevent cybercriminals from accessing workplace information.  

4. Smart home devices 

Homes are increasingly being filled with smart devices like cameras, connected lighting systems speakers or baby monitors. These devices are often voice-controlled and can open an avenue for cybercriminals to record audio and images from inside living rooms. In August, researchers were able to hack the Amazon Echo, a voice-activated smart speaker, and stream audio from its microphone. Lacking strong network protection could potentially let hackers take over smart devices to spy on or record users in their own homes. 

5. Home routers and WiFi

In a home of computers, phones, tablets and Internet of Things (IoT) devices, the common point is the home WiFi router. To keep home devices more secure, it’s important to secure the router and WiFi network. Users should choose a strong password and consider configuring the router to not broadcast the SSID. While this will make adding devices a little harder, it also means it’s even harder for unauthorised people to join the home network.

6. People inside and outside the house

Users must not forget that cybercrime doesn’t necessarily occur from afar, and isn’t always committed by faceless hackers online. Leaving private information on open laptops or desktops that are visible through windows or by visitors lets people stealthily view or steal information. Users should keep laptops closed and PC screens locked when unmonitored. 

7. Outdated software

Laptops, smart TVs, smartphones, tablets and more require regular software updates. Failing to update devices connected to the home network leaves them vulnerable to attack. It’s essential to update and patch devices regularly. 

“Consumers need to take security precautions even in their own homes to protect financial, work, and personal data,” says Manley.

“It’s important to secure networks with quality solutions designed to stave off attacks, and take practical steps, like closing devices while unmonitored, updating software, and changing passwords regularly.”

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