When one hears the word “computer,” it often calls to mind the bulky office PCs many of us use at home or work. However, limiting the definition in this manner is archaic; many more devices include computers, or mini computers, than one may realize, and they all must be protected. Smart home devices, networked security cameras, and routers should be locked down lest they become pathways for infection. Though they all may require different procedures, there are a few general steps to devices are secure and safe.
First, ensure that your devices are up to date. Even devices which don’t use traditional software often still possess firmware, which may be prone to the same kinds of bugs and flaws that open your network to attack. With any device connected to the network, it’s worth ensuring it has the latest software and firmware. Manufacturers often post the latest firmware versions on their websites, which can then be compared to the information displayed by the device’s settings or information page. If the device’s version is lower, it’s time to update.
Second, make sure to use strong passwords, and change any default passwords present. Many routers, whether installed by the user or a telecom company, still use poorly crafted or insecure login credentials. If any of your devices still possess the default credentials, take the opportunity to change them and eliminate attackers’ easiest method of entry. Two-factor authentication can take security even further by requiring a second verification method, such as authentication via text message. This ensures that a compromised password doesn’t mean a compromised system.
Third, disable or remove features that you don’t use. On routers especially, features like Wi-Fi Protected Setup may offer a convenient alternative to conventional systems. Yet, they’re merely a liability if not used frequently. Rather than leaving these features enabled with the potential to cause problems, it’s worthwhile to log into the software and disable them.
By applying these techniques to all computers/devices used, even the nontraditional ones, users can eliminate attackers’ easiest entry into their network. Time and time again, articles pop up that baby monitors, doorbells, and other smart devices have been hacked; however, if users had secured these devices properly in the first place, most of this grief could have been avoided. Prepare now for the future or prepare later for the consequences.
Author: Grey Ruessler, IT User Services
CISA. (2011, December 19). Cybersecurity for electronic devices. Retrieved from https://www.us-cert.gov/ncas/tips/ST04-014.