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Take a 'Byte' Out of Crime

February 19, 2015

You wouldn't think that hackers are trying to get into your fridge, but they are (check out http://www.businessinsider.com/hackers-use-a-refridgerator-to-attack-businesses-2014-1). 

As the number of connected smart devices and gadgets constantly increases, security concerns are exponentially multiplied.  A new study conducted by Hewlett-Packard found that an alarming "70% of all Internet of Things devices are hackable."  This means that your smart TVs and fridges, webcams, thermostats and even A/C units are vulnerable to attack.  Even worse, it is predicted that almost everything will be connected by the Internet of Things in the next twenty years or so.

More than ever, locking down these devices and putting a focus on security should be a priority for both homes and businesses.  What can you do to stay protected? Here are my top four:

  • Change the default password – On every device that’s connected to the internet (via wire or Wi-Fi), change the default password. Make sure you use a password that is 8 or more characters long, uses mixed UPPER and lower case, has some numbers and special characters (i.e. @$&!) in them.
  • Load the latest firmware from the manufacturer – Check the manufacturer's support site if your device doesn’t have an UPDATE feature in its web interface, and load the latest firmware (firmware is the software the device runs, kind of like the operating system on your phone or computer)
  • Keep your computer patched – Sounds silly, but most computers are NOT patched regularly. Microsoft releases regular patches every month. So does Apple. Make sure your computer is updated.
  • Change your computer password regularly – Same rule as #1 above, make it complex, and change it regularly. Never use a simple password like your child’s name, as it can be easily hacked using a dictionary attack (yep, hackers “virtually” throw a dictionary of words against your device and common words in the dictionary get figured out in minutes to hours)

Granted you may not feel comfortable loading firmware, or changing passwords on a device like a thermostat or your TV, but pay your IT person to come over twice a year and change everything at your house, or at least four times a year to update all the passwords and firmware at your office. Have them write down a list of all the devices they changed, what the new passwords are, and lock the list up in a safe place. In the future, all you need to do is set up a scheduled reminder to call them in to do the work (give them the list to update). They’ll thank you for the few dollars of service you’ll pay them, and you can rest well knowing you’ve done a lot to keep the hackers at bay.

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