The connected home is fast becoming commonplace. Smart appliances like light bulbs, smart assistant speakers, thermostats, cameras and door locks arguably make life more convenient. That futuristic Jetson-like vibe they bring is certainly cool but are they compromising our homes' cybersecurity?
With the recent surges of attacks against Internet of Things and smart appliances, making them witless minions of Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) botnets, could there be simpler ways to protect our living spaces without a complete overhaul and rethinking of our home networks?
Well, if you have connected smart appliances in your home right now and you're enjoying the conveniences they bring, there's one simple router tweak you can do to make your home network safer.
Turning on the guest network
One simple way to protect your more critical personal devices, like your personal computers, smartphones, and tablets, is to put them on a separate network that's different from your main one.
You can do this by setting up a completely different Wi-Fi router or by simply enabling your router's "Guest Network" option, a popular feature for most routers.
Guest networks are meant for visitors to your home who might need a Wi-Fi internet connection but you don't want them gaining access to the shared files and devices within your network. This segregation will also work for your smart appliances and it can shield your main devices from specific Internet-Of-Things attacks.
You can even set up a different network name (SSID) and password for the guest network to avoid confusion with your main network.
With this setup, it will be harder for hackers to infiltrate your main gadgets even if they manage to hijack and exploit your internet-connected smart appliances.
Newer routers do this segmentation automatically. With this feature, it allows users to put Internet-Of-Things appliances on a separate network, shielding your main computers and other personal gadgets from attacks.
With this virtual zoning of your network, you can still allow all your smart appliances and hubs to communicate with each other while keeping your main computing gadgets safe in the event of an Internet 0f Things attack.
Also, if you're worried about "wardrivers" or people roaming around looking for Wi-Fi spots to hack, you can disable the broadcasting of your network and your guest network's name (SSID) entirely.
With this method, your guests will have to get both network name and password from you and type it manually to connect to your Wi-Fi network. It's a bit more work but at least it gives you another layer of protection against casual snoopers.
To change these router settings, you'll either need to access the administrator console via a web browser or your router's app.
Here’s how to get into the administrator console: Make sure your device is connected to your router, either wired or wirelessly. Open a web browser and type in the router’s IP address. This is a number that the manufacturer gives to every router. Common ones look like 192.168.1.1, 192.168.0.1, or 192.168.2.1.
When you type the router’s IP address into the browser, it will prompt you for a username and password. If you have not changed the default credentials, I suggest you do that now.