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Three Ways to Keep Your Home Cyber Safe: Isolate | Update | Defend ™

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“What will they think of next?” Are you finding yourself asking this question these days? In the “smart” world of internet-connected devices, how did we go from smartphones to smart TVs to smart just about everything else you can think of in just a few years? Sure, you’ve heard of the Roomba, Nest, and of course, Amazon Echo. But have you seen the smart fork and the smart floss dispenser? What about the smart baby changing pad? If you can think of it, and it’s not already available, you can bet someone’s trying to crowd-fund its development. Soon your home will be filled with these gadgets.

Which is great – smart products for everyone! The only problem – well one of the big problems – is that many smart devices have a fraction of the security features of your iPhone or Android. Smart devices all contain tiny computers with IP addresses, so if you have seven smart devices in your home, you have seven computers, in addition to your home computer. And if these devices are not properly secured, you’re asking for trouble, in the form of everything from data theft to ransomware infection.

Bottom line: The Internet of Things devices has made effective overall home security a priority for everyone. We all know that safety starts at home, so let’s take a look at some of the threats that might put your home security at risk and then how to reduce risk by applying the Isolate, Update, Defend™ method.

Ways to Invade Your Home

What all do we have to be afraid of? Well, there are several ways a hacker can gain access to your home.

Breaking In: One of the most used tools include password crackers like John the Ripper and vulnerability scanners such as OpenVas which are used to find holes in your security and the wolves then exploit those holes.

Sneaking In: Using some form of malware to search your system for passwords and other valuable information. Shoulder surfing is used by wolves to watch you as you enter your user ID and password into the system. They can write or remember what you enter and use the information to gain access.

Zero Day Vulnerability: These are vulnerabilities that are unknown to the developers, users, and maintenance folks until the day the vulnerability is exploited. These types of vulnerabilities are impossible to defend because you don’t know they exist.

How do I keep the wolves out? Isolate, Update, Defend™

Isolate: When we say isolate, we often think of things like network segmentation where we have a sub-network separated by a firewall or some other type of appliance. But we can isolate in a home network as well. Your home network wireless router may provide you the ability to have a secure (WPA2 protected) network option as well as an un-secure guest option. Guests who join the guest Wi-Fi network are confined to an entirely separate network and given Internet access, but they can’t communicate with the main wired network or the primary wireless network. You may also have the ability to set separate rules and restrictions on the Guest Wi-Fi network.

You should also back up your system and the valuable things you store on the hard drive. Your phots can be burned to CDs or uploaded to commercial cloud based storage like Shutterfly, Google Photos, or Flickr. You may also have some home videos you want to keep secure. These you can burn to a DVR or upload to You Tube, Flickr, or Stashspace.

Update: Every operating system manufacturer provides its customers with system updates. These updates may improve performance, add more functionality, or provide more security to the system. The first Tuesday of each month Windows updates are released. Apple’s MAC OS releases updates as required but not on a certain schedule. You can see what version of MAC OS you are using by visiting the Apple Support site. In Windows you can turn on automatic updates for your system. Using this feature, you will not need to visit the Windows site looking for updates, the updates will be pushed to you when you are connected to the Internet.

Defend: Defending against the wolves takes a bit of effort, but the return on the time invested can be huge. Most of us use a wireless router at home to provide mobility with our devices inside our homes. These routers come from the manufacturer with a default password. The instructions with the router should explain how to changes this default password. If your Internet provider installs the router, the technician should have you change the password and show you how to perform this function. Make sure you select a strong password or a pass phrase that you can remember. Always ensure the Wi-Fi Protected Access 2 (WPA2) is enabled. This is currently the strongest security protection for wireless networks. It ensures that the traffic on the network is encrypted making traffic more difficult to use if it is captured by a cybercriminal.

Both Windows and MAC OS come with firewalls that you can deploy to protect your home. The firewall can be set using rules that will allow, or not allow, the traffic you identify through your network. Firewalls are a good first layer of defense to deploy on your home computer. You can find instructions for using a Windows Firewall is here. The MAC Version is here. Don’t forget to turn on the automatic update for the firewall. The update will place “blacklisted” URLs into the access denied list in your firewall. If a URL has been “blacklisted” it has been proven to distribute malware or other bad things onto the computers of visitors.

Finally, when you are not surfing the Internet, disconnect from it. By not being connected to the Internet you dramatically decrease the possibility of wolves breaking into your computer and making it theirs.

To learn more about this and other cybersecurity related topics, talk to one of our experts and request a trial account today.

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