How to Secure Your Home-Based Business in the Age of IoT
If your business shares a network with any of your home’s IoT devices, you could be inadvertently putting your business in danger.
Most home-based business owners are acutely aware of the need to secure their computers and mobile devices against cyber attacks.
Even something as seemingly harmless as letting the kids do homework on a work computer can have dire consequences if they visit an infected website or open a dangerous file, so most home business devices have strong protections against common threats.
However, what many entrepreneurs don’t realize is that viruses, malware, ransomware, and other sources of trouble don’t just come through email or websites.
If a hacker gains access to your home network by some means, then any device using that network is in danger. And if your business shares a network with any of your home’s IoT devices – including smart appliances, thermostats, televisions, hubs, and more, you could be inadvertently putting your business in danger.
Why Securing Your IoT Devices Matters
Imagine that you receive a phone call from a stranger, telling you that he has control of your home. Skeptical, you ask the caller to control your bedroom lights – and he does.
It sounds like something from a horror movie, but it actually happened a few years ago. A reporter, attempting to make a point about the lack of security in IoT devices, was able to easily access a San Francisco resident’s smart home hub – and not only change settings and make things happen in the home, but also gather information about the residents of the home, location of the home, and more.
And that particular case is only the beginning. Since then, there have been documented cases of hackers exploiting vulnerabilities in IoT devices to launch DDoS attacks on major internet service providers, as well as infecting smart gadgets with viruses and ransomware to steal data and more.
The simple fact is that without the proper security measures, it’s possible that a cybercriminal could use something as innocuous as your refrigerator or your thermostat to infiltrate your network and steal important data from your business – and you might not even realize it.
Like many cyber attacks, most IoT-related hacks are crimes of opportunity, where individuals aren’t specifically targeted, but depending on your business, you could be a target for hackers. You might think that you have everything locked down
and safe, but if you haven’t secured your connected things, you would be wrong.
What You Need to Do
Keeping your business safe in the age of the IoT requires both doing what you are already doing – installing strong antivirus protection, setting up firewalls, following best practices for passwords and internet usage on your business machines – and taking specific steps to secure your network and connected devices as well.
If you aren’t sure where to start, consider contracting with independent technical support services to get you on the right track, and then do the following:
- Read the documentation for all your IoT devices. Many people simply “plug and play” their IoT gadgets, without realizing that they can do more to secure them. Read the documentation and follow through with all suggestions to improve security.
- Change default passwords. Most devices come with default administrator names and passwords, which are unlikely to vary. Change all passwords using the guidelines for strong passwords.
- Stay abreast of updates. One of the most common causes of infected or breached IoT devices is hackers exploiting vulnerabilities in the devices themselves. Keep abreast of all updates to device software and install them immediately.
- Maintain separate networks. Whenever possible, maintain a separate network that is specifically devoted to your business machines. While there is always a possibility that hackers will target both your home and business networks, if you maintain your business on a network that is separate from that hosting your IoT devices, the likelihood of an IoT-related breach is reduced. Be sure to maintain separate, distinct passwords for both networks.
- Review security information. When purchasing IoT devices, or determining which ones to add to your home, carefully review information about the security of specific brands to ensure that you select the most secure option. In addition, be selective about which devices you connect to the internet. Ask yourself whether it’s actually necessary to connect a specific device and what you have to gain from doing so. Not all risks are worth the rewards.
Maintaining the security of the IoT is a significant issue, and one that will dominate a great deal of conversation going forward. As a home business owner, it’s important that you know and understand the risks, and take precautions now, to avoid falling victim to an attack.
Tom McGuire puts his decade of experience in IT to work by educating small-business owners about cybersecurity and how to keep their businesses safe from hackers. He writes for Trend Micro and others, offering simple solutions for time-starved entrepreneurs.
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