Smart home devices are some of the most popular gifts given over the course of the holiday season. As small, connected devices intended to be placed throughout the home, well-established pieces of equipment such as the Amazon Echo, Nest Camera, and Ring doorbell perform a wide variety of tasks that can help make life more convenient.

It’s easy to see why smart home devices are a popular gift. The technology is new and exciting, the prices are typically inexpensive, and the equipment itself is compact and easy to ship and store. But in spite of the convenience these devices offer, they also carry a significant number of security risks that can jeopardize the safety of your home network and personal information.

This is especially true when it comes to the home office. As many throughout the world remain required to work from home as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, the home office has become an integral part of work life.

But without proper precautions to mitigate the risks posed by smart home devices, home offices — as well as any information associated with your business — can remain vulnerable to even the most unsuspecting types of connected devices, like smart thermostats and speakers.

How smart home devices get compromised

If a smart home setup is compromised, a hacker can gain access to a wide variety of information, including:

Main network access.

Your main network grants access to any devices connected in your home — including computers, phones, game consoles, or other connected equipment such as printers — which means it can be infiltrated. Not only does this place your personal data at risk, but if you work from home, this can also jeopardize your employer’s proprietary information, client data and more.

Sensitive information.

Personal account information, including names and addresses of family members, as well as methods of payment, may be retrieved in the event that a smart device is hacked.

Remote smart device functionality.

If compromised, a smart device can be used to remotely trigger functions, such as turning on an appliance or placing an order, without your consent.

What hackers can access through smart home devices

Hackers can gain access to smart devices through a variety of different methods, including:

Home network access.

Because smart devices must be connected to your main network in order to function, weak home network security can leave connected equipment vulnerable to attack.

Poor product design and testing.

Inexpensive smart home devices trusted to connect to your network may have been rushed to market. A hurried manufacturing process can leave devices without the proper research and development necessary to prevent serious vulnerabilities.

Basic setup and configuration.

Smart devices can have an overly simplified initial setup process that lacks adequate security controls and procedures.

How to secure smart home devices

After understanding the potential threats that smart home devices can pose, it’s important to take every possible step to make sure that they’re secure. If you’re looking to set up a smart home device in your home, here are some simple things you can do to ensure that the device and your information are safe:

Verify your main home network is secure.

Make sure you take the steps necessary to set up a secure home office.  Verify that your modem, router, and other home network equipment have the necessary security settings in place to limit smart device network access. Keep track of all of the devices on your main network to confirm that your devices are the only ones that are connected.

Use complex, different passwords.

To ensure high security, choose passwords that are unique and difficult to guess for all of your accounts and devices — and be sure to change them regularly throughout the year. You do not want to be caught in a situation in which someone finds a single password of yours and gains access to each and every account you own.

Update device software.

Frequently check the firmware on smart devices to verify that they are up-to-date and supported by the company. Check individual device settings to verify that security features have been enabled, such as two-factor authentication.

Know your product.

It’s crucial that you know exactly what smart device you’re adding to your network. Stick with brand names you recognize, be aware of what information the devices should have access to, and always research any privacy concerns associated with the device before setting it up.

Smart devices can be useful in a home office setting, but they can nevertheless pose significant risks to connected devices and data. A good understanding of how your smart home office is set up can help prevent you and your company from being compromise.

Contact DWD’s network team if you would like help setting up a secure home office.