Top 5 Tips for Smart Home Cybersecurity

Top 5 Tips for Smart Home Cybersecurity

April 15th, 2020

According to the IoT Security Foundation, cybersecurity is more like a journey than a destination. The IoT (Internet of Things) has changed in the past several decades since its inception. The first IoT device was born in the 1980s, when Carnegie Mellon University researchers created a vending machine that connected to the internet and reported on its inventory.

As of 2020, as many as 21 billion IoT devices could be in the marketplace. What we think of as the IoT is actually a network of smart objects, like a thermostat, light or sensor which report information and receive commands. The IoT also encompasses watches, computer programs and any network between a group of devices that's used for exchanging data.

As more and more smart objects enter the marketplace, even the Federal government has begun paying more attention to the IoT's vulnerabilities. The Internet of Things Cybersecurity Improvement Act of 2019 was introduced in March of 2019, intended to increase federal oversight of cybersecurity of the IoT. This bill, if passed, would require that IoT devices the Federal Government purchases pass standards recommended by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) --- standards that would be updated every five years.

We've compiled a list of cybersecurity tips that can help our Members keep their home security systems running smoothly. We even sought the expert advice of our in-house cybersecurity expert, David Judkins, so you can rest assured that we've done ample research on protecting your AAA Smart Home system before it even reaches our Members.

Use Password Best Practices

This may seem like a no-brainer, but you'd be shocked at how often passwords aren't complex enough. It's understandable when you consider how many apps, accounts and platforms we use on a daily basis. When combined with the sensitivity of home security, password strength, complexity and privacy are key to ensuring your home is safe. Here are a few ideas that may be common sense to you but are worth reviewing.

  • Only use new passwords, never reuse old ones

  • Always enable multi-factor authentication for an extra layer of security

  • Never reveal passwords to anyone outside the users of your home security system

  • Start with 20 characters by using phrases or sentences that require many characters but are easy to remember

  • Then add complexity with capital letters, numbers and punctuation symbols

Managing multiple passwords is a fact of modern life. However, it doesn't have to be chaotic or difficult. Use a password manager and consider a home security system that combines intrusion detection, video doorbells, camera and automation in one single interface, like AAA Smart Home.

And Change Your Passwords

Yes, even the best thought-out password can still get stale after enough time - or after certain events compromise it. We recommend you change your password whenever any of these things happen:

  • Malware is running on your computer system or mobile device.

  • After the disclosure of a server intrusion.

  • After receiving a notification of unauthorized access to your account.

  • You shared passwords with someone who no longer needs access to the account. If you logged on to a public or shared computer.

  • It's been more than a year since you last changed your password

Just because your password has 20 characters and a few symbols doesn't mean it will last forever. Mark your calendar or set up a recurring calendar event to remind yourself to change your passwords regularly. This is where a password manager can also make life much easier, as it can nudge you to update your passwords regularly.

Protect Your Home WiFi Network

A home security system like AAA Smart Home uses a dedicated cellular line which serves as a second point of access for your home security system. This means that if your home WiFi network is hacked your home security can maintain its integrity and safely relay messages between its sensors and your monitoring station.

  • Change its name, also known as the SSID (Service Set Identifier).

  • Don't identify your home in the name of your WiFi network.

  • While this may be easy to remember, it can give hackers clues as to which network to hack.

  • When you're not using your home network for an extended period of time, consider turning it off.

  • This can minimize your vulnerability to hackers.

  • Place your router as close as you can to the center of your home to offer equal access to WiFi in all rooms of your house, and to avoid extending your network outside the home. This leaves it open to outsiders who are still in range.

  • Encrypt your home WiFi network so it's on WPA2 (Wi-Fi Protected Access 2) or higher.

AAA Smart Home uses a Smart Gateway which separates your smart home network from your user network, giving it its own SSID. It doesn't have many of the vulnerabilities that lead to common hacking attempts on personal computers. This means that should someone hack into your personal computer's WiFi network, they can't use it as a point of entry for your security cameras.

And obviously, use a strong and unique password for your home network. Don't use the default one from the manufacturer, as some hackers can guess these when they're familiar with the brand.

Update Your Software & Firmware

Software updates may seem like a hassle because they take a few minutes and interrupt what you're doing---especially when an application seems to work just fine. But in spite of this, we recommend you allow software and firmware updates on your security devices and apps. (Firmware, or microcode, is used to carry out the core functions of the hardware rather than to perform its interactive functions, which is what software is for.) Updates are released to fix any security issues or address vulnerabilities that arise after a product goes to market.

Hackers can access personal data through known vulnerabilities in web applications if software updates aren't implemented. Keep your personal information safe by always updating the software and firmware on your devices and applications.

Research Your Home Security System

Cybersecurity lead David Judkins has been testing our sensors with jamming and other brute force attacks to separate inferior products from reliable ones.  David has been securing wireless networks for educational, corporate and retail entities like Stanford, Sephora and Ross since 1996. He makes sure that "we test all our devices, first with a jamming attack, then with a cracking attack. We've discontinued devices that didn't pass and will continue to test our devices in the future."

Invest in a system with two-way communication between its control panel and sensors. This creates a conversation between security devices rather than a monologue. As David puts it, "If a tree falls in the forest, if a sensor stops working, there's no way for it to communicate with the panel unless it has two-way communication." Two-way communication enables the panel to get messages back from sensors, indicating that they're on and functioning. Without this, there's no way to know when a sensor is not functioning properly, and might fail.

He also recommended opting for a system with PowerG which "offers better encryption than your average sensors," with 128-bit AES (American Encryption Standard) encryption, "which your average hacker would have a hard time breaking." (AAA Smart Home Cameras have 256-bit AES encryption.) Its low use of power enables it to lengthen battery lives as well, so consumers need fewer repairs and replacements.

All in all, it's important to do your research and not be fooled by a low price tag because "some of the cheaper technology that's widely available today is about 20 years old and may be so ubiquitous because it's easy to hack and not as valuable as higher priced items."

Let's Review

In summation, there is no fail proof way to eliminate cyber vulnerabilities. However, there are a few broad measures you can take to protect yourself.

  1. Use password best practices

  2. Change your passwords regularly

  3. Carefully guard your home WiFi network to protect it from potential threats

  4. Update your software and firmware --- on all devices and apps, not just home security ones

  5. Consider your home security provider's track record for cybersecurity, or consider this when gathering information on providers

Hopefully these tips have helped you gain some insight into how cybersecurity issues can be prevented, if not avoided entirely. Thank you for reading, and don't forget to change your passwords.

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Monitoring starts at just $19.99/month*. Fill out the form below or call us: (844) 669-2221

*Requires purchase of a new control panel. System sold separately. Installation fee applies. Discount applies to monthly alarm and smart home monitoring fees only. Valid AAA Membership required for discount. Please contact us for availability in your area. Certain terms and restrictions may apply, visit AAA.com/SmartTerms for details.

By providing us with a telephone number, you expressly consent to receiving emails, calls and/or texts made from AAA Smart Home and any of its parents, subsidiaries, to provide you with a quote and additional information regarding home security or smart home offers. Calls and texts may incur fees from your mobile services provider.

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Your submission was successful. We’ll be in touch shortly. If you need immediate assistance, please call (844) 669-2221

Get a Free Quote

Monitoring starts at just $19.99/month*. Fill out the form below or call us: (844) 669-2221

*Requires purchase of a new control panel. System sold separately. Installation fee applies. Discount applies to monthly alarm and smart home monitoring fees only. Valid AAA Membership required for discount. Please contact us for availability in your area. Certain terms and restrictions may apply, visit AAA.com/SmartTerms for details.

By providing us with a telephone number, you expressly consent to receiving emails, calls and/or texts made from AAA Smart Home and any of its parents, subsidiaries, to provide you with a quote and additional information regarding home security or smart home offers. Calls and texts may incur fees from your mobile services provider.

Thank you null!

Your submission was successful. We’ll be in touch shortly. If you need immediate assistance, please call (844) 669-2221