How can I pro­tect my smart home from hack­ers?

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Dan Grab­ham replies: At present, the prospect of your home ‘be­ing hacked’ is quite re­mote. How­ever, with so many de­vices like smart bulbs, ther­mostats and kitchen ap­pli­ances now con­nect­ing to the in­ter­net, such at­tacks could be­come more com­mon in the fu­ture.

The first and best thing you can do to pro­tect your smart home from hack­ers is to change all ac­cess pass­words from their de­fault ones to some­thing unique to you. Use strong pass­words that con­sist of let­ters, num­bers and sym­bols. If two-fac­tor au­then­ti­ca­tion is avail­able, use it – Google and Ap­ple now sup­port this. It sends you a sec­ond code (usu­ally to your phone or other ‘trusted’ de­vice), which you need to en­ter in ad­di­tion to your pass­word.

Many de­vices will keep their own soft­ware (firmware) up-to-date, but it’s im­por­tant to al­ways down­load up­dates for all your de­vices, whether that’s a Dell XPS lap­top run­ning Win­dows 10, an Ap­ple TV or a Nest Pro­tect. This will keep your smart home gad­gets as safe as pos­si­ble from weak­nesses that hack­ers might try to ex­ploit.

Many routers, such as the Net­gear Nighthawk AC1750 Smart Wi-Fi Router, en­able you to cre­ate a ‘guest’ net­work to be used by vis­i­tors, so you don’t need to give out your main ac­cess code. That’s im­por­tant if you run a small busi­ness from your home. And never al­low some­one re­mote ac­cess to your net­work – es­pe­cially if they called you out of the blue!

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