“Internet of things” devices have completely taken over every corner of life. Almost everything is controlled by an outside internet source, changing the way we do things forever.

IoT products give us greater control over our home/office security, door locks, garage openers, lights, appliances and so on.

IoT devices connect wirelessly to a network and have the ability to transmit data. IoT involves extending internet connectivity beyond standard devices to noninternet-enabled physical devices and everyday objects. Embedded with technology, these devices can now communicate and interact over the internet and can be monitored and controlled remotely via a computer or your smartphone.

With more and more devices and appliances hitting the market with internet capabilities, protecting them from hackers becomes critical. Unfortunately, when these noncomputer/nonsmartphone devices (refrigerators, garage door openers, alarm systems, etc.) were built, security wasn’t a top priority.

According to Gartner, there will be an estimated 20.4 billion connected IoT devices in use, with 12.8 billion of those installed for consumers and an estimated 11.1 billion devices in 2018.

Connecting everyday devices to the internet is a great idea, but users need to be mindful of the risks.

Leaving your network open is the equivalent to leaving your front door unlocked. You need to use this mindset when securing the IoT devices on your network.

If you are one of the millions of IoT users, it’s best to proactively secure your network so that hacking one device, such as the TV, doesn’t become a backdoor into your home.

Not only do everyday consumers need to worry, but businesses as well.

Small businesses or bigger corporations may implement IoT devices in their stores or offices via security cameras, alarm systems, lights, personal assistants and so on. Not only do stores implement these IoT devices, but their employees may accidently compromise the network.

If the employee’s personal home network was compromised by a virus or a hacker and the employee synced his IoT device, such as a smartwatch, phone, tablet or industry-specific device, to their personal computer, once they bring that device to work and sync it to the business’s computer, the hacker would be able to gain access to the business’s sensitive information.

The reason for this possibly happening is because IoT devices are unsecure and come without antivirus protection. This is why businesses need to have regulations in place and rules for their employees, so this type of compromise is less likely to happen.

Not only can an employee unwillingly expose the business’s network to a hack, but business owners can unwillingly do the same. If a business owner connects their IoT device to the network, the network can be left vulnerable to a breach. This can be smart lights that connect through the business’s internet or Wi-Fi, alarm systems, and so on.

Hacking into a company is more valuable for the hacker than a single-family residence, as they are able to gain access to more valuable information they can easily sell.

While it’s hard to protect the IoT device itself, it’s not impossible. If the device manufacturer allows it, push certificates to your devices, download security updates and protect with a long, alphanumeric password.

You should also focus on your perimeter and secure your business or home network.

Splitting up the channels on your Wi-Fi network can lessen the chance that everything connected will be hacked. If your IoT devices are connected to one channel and your PC or phone is on another, if the channel the IoT device was on was hacked, your other channel could be spared, saving your PC from a hack.

Businesses can consult with their IT department, or third-party network consultants to manage IoT devices and disable any unnecessary features that are programed by default. They should also contact security experts that have experience securing businesses from cyberattacks for advice on what to do.

Before you purchase an IoT device, shop with a vendor that provides IoT devices with security in mind. Purchase products that release regular updates, have password protection and have abilities to encrypt network communications.

Lastly, businesses should set a clear cybersecurity policy and continuously revise it every time a new IoT device is implemented into your strategy.

While nothing is ever 100 percent foolproof, using these techniques can help to minimize your risk.

Kayleena Speakman is a communications specialist for Better Business Bureau Serving Central California & Inland Empire Counties.

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