Imagine if every single gadget in your life was "smart." Your self-driving car could let your house know you're on the way home so it can adjust the thermostat and kick on the lights.
Your fridge could detect that you're out of milk and order some online before you even wake up. A drone delivers the milk just in time for your morning bowl of cereal. These are all super helpful features, but they do come with some risks.
How hackers are attacking IoT gadgets
Cybercriminals are not always trying to steal personal and banking information. Sometimes they are trying to create havoc. We told you about an attack last week that looked like ransomware, but was actually a cyberattack intended to disrupt things.
Most of the time, cybercriminals use an army of internet of things (IoT) gadgets to disrupt services or shut down websites. This is called a distributed denial of services (DDoS) attack.
DDoS attacks occur when servers are overwhelmed with more traffic than they can handle. These types of attacks are performed with a botnet.
A botnet is a group of gadgets that hackers have taken over without the owner's knowledge. The hackers seize control of unwitting gadgets with a virus or malware and then use the network of infected computers to perform large-scale hacks or scams.
What's happening now is, hackers are infecting IoT gadgets, like smart refrigerators and webcams, with malware to create a botnet. They are then turning to the Dark Web and selling them to other criminals who are less tech savvy.
How to protect your IoT gadgets
Since Internet of Things appliance infections reside on temporary memory, the first thing you have to do is reboot the device to clear out the malware.
If you are checking your router, IP webcam or connected printer, it is important that you change the default administrator username and password. Do this by accessing the appliance's hub (usually through a webpage or a smartphone app). If your smart appliance connects via the manufacturer's website, make sure your password for their site is complex and unique.
Next, check for firmware updates. When DDoS attacks get publicized, manufacturers start issuing security patches to prevent such infections. It's important to keep your firmware always up to date.
If your gadget does not automatically fetch firmware updates, make sure to manually check at least every three months. Click here to learn how to update your router's firmware.
Some routers have some firewall functionality too. In your router's administrator page, look for settings named "Disable Port Scan" and "Enable DoS Protection" and make sure you turn these on.
As evidenced by recent attacks and techniques, in this increasingly connected world, it goes without saying the more our homes become "smarter," the more we have to be smarter about our homes.