October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month and the Department of Commerce – in partnership with the Department of Homeland Security’s Stop.Think.Connect.™ Campaign – is highlighting the importance of cybersecurity and online safety.
Is your robotic vacuum or pet webcam making your home network less safe? We’re surrounded by the internet of things (IoT) where items like thermostats, light bulbs and refrigerators are connected to the internet. We carry around smart devices like phones and we even wear them in the form of fitness trackers, smart watches and medical devices. This complicated IoT offers us tremendous benefits, but it also poses many unique risks.
As technology continues to evolve and advance through all aspects of our lives, it is critical to use internet-connected devices in safe and secure ways. These devices pose various privacy and security challenges because they collect personal information about the user which could potentially be accessed by others. You are responsible for understanding what information these devices collect and how it is being shared.
Follow these simple tips to help secure any object or device that connects to the internet and sends or receives data automatically:
- Secure your home Wi-Fi network by customizing the name (a.k.a. SSID) and pre-set passwords of your router, using the router’s built-in firewall and limiting or regularly monitoring which devices are connecting to your network through MAC addresses.
- If you decide to purchase an IoT device, do your research to ensure that the manufacturer takes cybersecurity seriously. Look for regular security updates, password management options and strong encryption of your data.
- Pay close attention to the permissions that a device or app is requesting. For example, a flashlight app on your phone does not need access to your address book.
- Read privacy policies and know what information an app or device will collect to determine if you really want to share such information.
- Keep all devices that connect to the internet free from viruses and malware by updating the software regularly.
- Understand privacy settings to control how much information a device or app will display publicly about you.
You can learn more about National Cyber Security Awareness Month and how you can be safe online at www.dhs.gov/ncsam. To receive cybersecurity tips year round, visit www.dhs.gov/stopthinkconnect and sign up to get email updates from the Stop.Think.Connect. Campaign.