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Quick TIPS: 8 Steps to Protect Your Smart Home from Hackers

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Where thieves used to pick your front door lock (and some still do), hackers are now making their way into your home via your smart technology. In fact, hackers are now targeting the most innocuous smart devices, like your lights and programmable thermostat. So how do you protect yourself from a smart home hack? We've got a few quick tips. 

1. Use a secure wireless network.  

The best way to do this is to create a second wireless network in your home and use it only for your smart tech devices. Give it a unique name, a unique password, and never use it for your personal transactions, such as banking or paying bills.

2. Practice good password safety. 

You've been told these tips since forever, but how many of us actually follow the expert recommendations when creating and safeguarding our passwords? Now's the time. Change the default password and use a unique one for every device and service you frequent. Make your passwords "strong" with numbers, symbols, and capital letters. Set up the two-factor authentication to keep strangers off your network.

If you have an Amazon smart device, then your neighbors and passersby may be using your network through Amazon Sidewalk, a shared network that piggy-backs off your personal Wi-Fi. You can easily turn off this network in five easy steps

3. Keep your smart tech devices up to date.

Update your smart home devices for upgraded security features.

Manufacturers update their products regularly with stronger security protocols, so make sure to register your smart home devices and keep them updated. That should help to ward off new concerns as they arise. Also, reboot your devices once a week to prompt updates to install.

4. Unplug your smart home devices when not in use.

Unplug the devices you're not using.

You turn off lights when you're not in the room (or so we hope). Likewise, unplug your smart tech devices when not using them. Of course, we don't recommend unplugging your smart refrigerator or thermostat, but consider pulling the power from your indoor camera when home, your smart coffee machine, your smart yoga mat, etc. If it's not necessary for safety, give it rest.

5. Disable features you don't use.

Less is more, in this case. If you don't use remote access, don't enable it for someone else to use. Voice activation or even content recognition features track which shows you watch and deliver advertising based on your preferences, which can also be used by phishing scammers. If a feature can be used against you and it doesn't spark joy – turn it off.

6. Question power issues.

Safeguard all your smart devices, including your lights.

Power outages and surges create vulnerabilities in your smart devices. If your light bulb begins to flicker, it could be a hacker trying to install malware. If your laptop's camera light is on, you're probably being watched. If someone is talking to you through your speakers – you get the idea. Unplug your devices, and call a professional.

7. Complete a factory reset before selling or disposing of your devices. 

If you don't complete a factory reset of your device, there's a chance the person who buys it can acquire all your personal information, including passwords and photos. If you have an app, double check it to make sure none of the information is available after the reset.

8. Hire a security company for peace of mind. 

Have a professional watch your home.

If you do get hacked or believe you have a high possibility of getting hacked, consider installing an alarm system or using monitoring services. These will help protect your home even when you're away and provide security packages to constantly monitor your home. Since these services include monitoring fees, you may also want to consider a smart home security system. This will give you peace of mind in the palm of your hand with a control panel and voice control.

Smart tech devices are becoming ubiquitous, and by 2022, experts are expecting more than 63 million homes to be designated "smart." While your home might not be smart now, it mostly likely will be in the future, so make sure to follow these steps once you install your smart tech devices.

Not sure where to start your smart tech journey? We spoke with Kris Sparks of 10X Smart Tech to get some insight and first steps

Embrace digital home management 

Download vipHomeLink today!

Love your smart home tech? Then you need the premier digital home management solution - vipHomeLink! We help to simplify homeownership through our home management app, which provides homeowners with personalized reminders for home tasks. Our newest feature - the Virtual Home Checkup - is an interactive 20-minute video session where a home expert shares insights, money-saving and energy-efficiency tips, and helpful, preventative maintenance recommendations. From changing your air filters regularly to preventing a home hack, we've got you covered.

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Originally published March 6, 2020; updated Aug. 27, 2021

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