SJSU IT Tips – Smart Home Security Tips

Campus colleagues,

Smart home devices like cameras, locks, and thermostats add convenience and automation to our homes. Unfortunately, they can also be a backdoor for attackers. As we have shifted to hybrid work and learning modalities, many of us have incorporated smart devices not only into our personal, but also our professional lives. While many smart devices have access to your accounts, passwords, and network, they often lack the robust security software and safeguards of larger, complex devices like phones and computers. Here are a few quick tips on how to protect yourself and the university by keeping your devices secure:

  • Use a secondary or guest network – Most newer routers have the ability to create a secondary or guest network. The FBI recommends putting all of your smart devices on a different network from your computers, phones, and tablets, which is a great way to keep your data safe. Even if an attacker gains access to the network through a smart device, they’ll be separated from your data. Connect to the guest or secondary network as little as possible, ideally only while configuring your smart home devices.  Likewise, make sure your WiFi networks are secured with complex, unique passwords.
  • Account Security – Many smart devices require you to have an account. Make sure those accounts use complex, unique passwords; avoid default user names; and equip those accounts with Multi-Factor Authentication whenever possible. Once your account is set up, take a few minutes to review all of the available security settings.
  • Firmware Updates – “Firmware” is the software encoded onto your devices. Often, companies will send out firmware updates to their devices if they discover a security flaw. Take a minute to see if your device needs a firmware update. Usually you can find this information on the company’s website, application, or in your account information. Updates are most often done via WiFi.
  • Maintain Privacy Mindfulness – Ensuring that your privacy is protected is a major concern whenever you install a new smart home device. Go through your device’s privacy features, disable extra features you don’t use. If the devices use cloud services, such as remotely viewable cameras, it’s important to know how the company may be using or sharing your data and how they keep that data secure. Factory reset any older devices before reselling or recycling them, and if they use cloud services, ensure the associated account is logged out and deleted from the device.

Thank you Cole Gunter, Information Security Analyst & Program Coordinator,  for providing this tip to campus. As always, the SJSU IT Service Desk is here to help by phone at (408) 924-1530 or online.

Bob Lim
Vice President for Information Technology
and CIO at San José State University

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