Home cyber security

21 May 2019

Keeping your connected home safe from cyber criminals.

Home internet

The growing cyber threat to residential premises is intrinsically linked to the growth of internet connected devices in the home. Being able to turn on your washing machine from your office is no doubt efficient, and a fridge that can remind you to buy milk is pretty awesome. We have busy lives and these innovations can take the weight a little, but are they actually risking opening up your whole network to cyber criminals?

Most households now run networks of devices linked to the internet, including;

  • computers
  • gaming systems
  • TVs
  • tablets
  • appliances
  • smartphones
  • and wearable devices that access wireless networks.

This increase in smart technology in the home has provided opportunity for criminals to infiltrate residential properties in order to access personal information. To protect your home network from cyber attacks, you need to have the right tools in place and confidence that family members can use the internet safely and securely. Failure to have these safeguards in place can increase the risk of a breach of your family’s privacy - from theft of login details for email and other online sites, to the possibility of criminals shutting down your cyber defences by turning off alarms and shutting down CCTV cameras as a precursor to a burglary.

Simple steps to stay ahead of the cyber criminals

CCTV –managing passwords, software and firmware

The number of people who are installing CCTV of some description on their properties is rising across the UK. For some, this is a preventative measure, for others it is there for peace of mind. Once a home or business has CCTV installed, owners can watch the live view remotely via various devices to see any suspicious movement. This is especially useful should you be away from home or abroad. However, it is imperative for the CCTV system password to be changed. These systems are often sent out with generic, or easy to guess, passwords which cyber criminals may well be familiar with. Not all devices will prompt you to change the password, but most companies will provide a guide on how to complete this process. Software and firmware must also be kept up to date to prevent unwanted access.

Although these steps will not guarantee that someone won’t gain access to the system, they will go a long way to making the job significantly more difficult and possibly lead to the focus being switched to another property with less secure defences.

Is your router a route in for criminals?

Accessing the Wi-Fi router within a property is an effective way for criminals to gain information and identify the number and type of other devices connected to the network. From here, those devices with weaker security, for example many baby monitors, can be accessed and the feeds viewed. It is crucial to change the admin details on routers away from the default username and password and prudent for these to be changed every few months as a precautionary measure. Other steps you can take include changing the network name which may identify individuals, enabling WPA2 wireless encryption to ‘authorised access only’ to prevent external devices from adjusting settings.

One man’s rubbish can be a cyber-criminal’s treasure

Should access prove difficult via routers, criminals may try to access information via post and discarded rubbish. Although these are not initially cyber-related, the impact of someone gaining a name, address, and other basic details can be the prelude for an identity theft of some sort. This can then be combined with information available via open sources, such as 192.com, Companies House and the Land Registry. We advise that when you change your address, you notify contacts as soon as possible redirect your mail through the Post Office service, and shred or redact sensitive and unwanted files. You should be aware of where your personal information is stored, both in day-to-day life and during a move. This information should be kept well away from windows where prying eyes can read it.

We would also recommend that passwords are never given out online or on the telephone and that credit reports and bank statements are monitored regularly for any suspect or peculiar payments.

Install update now? Yes!

Though software updates on mobile devices were previously viewed with suspicion, it is now absolutely crucial that these updates are made as soon as possible as the security patches, among other things, make it more difficult for would-be cyber attackers to infiltrate the device.

This article maps out a few simple ways you can try and stay one step ahead of cyber criminals. If you are concerned about an attack – either a physical attack such as a burglary, or a cyber-attack, we at Blackstone Consultancy recommend that a residential security survey is conducted to identify and help to advise upon weak points of your property. We would also advise that an IT vulnerability and risk assessment is carried out to map out the property’s network infrastructure and identify and weak points which would be targeted.

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