Many more people have new smart-home devices after the holidays.
It could be Amazon’s Echo, often called “Alexa,” or Google Home using “Siri,” which provide music, news updates and other information features; iRobot Roomba to clean your floors; the Ring doorbell, or a smart TV for voice-command video.
While they are all functional, recent reports of cyberhacking has several people wary. Here are some tips for smart-home device owners:
Read the manual: “You’re so excited to play with the new device that you go ‘yes,’ ‘yes,’ ‘yes’ while setting up the device,” said Tim Rader, director of product development for security company ADT. The manual points out options that affect the level of privacy and security.
Change the device’s password. Many smart-home devices come with a manufacturer’s password to set them up. Don’t use the device with this password because it’s easily found online. Also experts suggest changing passwords every 90 days.
Two-factor authentication: This means you are providing another piece of information beyond a password for access. Often it’s a randomly generated code sent to your phone.
After some reports of login information being exposed on the Ring doorbell device, the company urged more than 3,000 users to change their passwords and use two-factor authentication. That followed reports of both police and hackers gaining access to Ring video footage. Some lawsuits have been filed against Ring and Amazon, which owns Ring.
Manage listening: Much has been written about the Alexa device’s recording capabilities. The device must do this to operate, but recordings and information requests can be deleted. Instructions are included.
Check other devices: Some gadgets like Roombas can work even if they are not connected to Wi-Fi.
“As we bring more and more technology into our homes, we need to be aware of its capabilities, its limitations, and some basic questions people should ask relative to its presence in their lives,” said Beth Ann Steele, a public information officer for the FBI.