Most of our personal information is stored online and easily accessible in today’s digital age. Many internet users choose to save their personal information on their favorite browser — everything from account names and passwords to home addresses and phone numbers are commonly saved in this way.
Even if you choose not to save your information, chances are it’s already been recorded somewhere on your device. This could potentially lead to a serious data breach if your device is targeted by a hacker or malicious software. Luckily, there are some steps you can take in order to secure your connected devices and reduce the risk of a break-in.
Turn Off Your Bluetooth Connection When Not In Use
Many newer devices rely heavily on Bluetooth to provide a wireless connection. However, hackers are also able to utilize this connection to remotely gain access to your devices. The most effective way to combat this is to turn off your Bluetooth whenever you’re not using it (same with your Location Services). This is especially important for connected devices, such as smart TVs and e-readers, which typically do not have the same level of security as PCs and smartphones.
Aside from a lack of security, many of these devices also lack the ability to receive updates or patches to fix potential exploits. Even for devices that do have the ability to update, it can take manufacturers months to identify a particular vulnerability, let alone develop a patch to address it. For example, at the time of this article, Apple’s iPhone operating system, iOS, has received a massive patch to address a malicious Bluetooth hack, while Google is still in the process of developing a fix for their mobile devices.
That particular Bluetooth vulnerability is known as the BlueBorne hack. When Bluetooth is turned on, the device is constantly open, trying to find other Bluetooth enabled devices to connect itself with. The BlueBorne hack takes advantage of this behavior by disguising itself as a Bluetooth enabled device seeking to make a connection. Once a connection has been established with another device, it begins to scan for potential vulnerabilities.
These vulnerabilities can be present in outdated operating systems or in a device that lacks security features altogether (which is the case for many of these devices). Once an access point has been established, the hacker can remotely control the device, even if it already has an established connection. At this point, the hacker will be able to extract any information that’s been entered or stored on the device. If the hacked device happens to be a smart phone, there’s no limit to the amount of personal information the hacker can extract.
There is some good news, however. The BlueBorne hack, as well as any other Bluetooth-related vulnerability, will require close proximity to the device in order to access it (roughly 35 feet for most Bluetooth devices). This means the connected devices in your home are more or less safe from intrusion. That being said, any connected device that you take with you outside of your home may be at risk, especially if you find yourself in crowded, public areas.
The key takeaways here are to make sure your connected devices are always updated to their latest version (if possible) and to ensure that your Bluetooth connection is turned off while it’s not in use. In doing so, you can better protect yourself against Bluetooth intrusions.
Change The Password On Your Router And Any Connected Devices
Most internet users know about the need for security features, such as firewalls, anti-malware software, and virus scans, but few people ever go the extra mile and change the default login credentials on their routers. What most people don’t know is that this is one of the most important steps you can take to protect all the devices connected to your Wi-Fi network.
By not changing the login information on your router, you’re putting the entire computer network at serious risk. This is because it gives potential hackers an easy way to bypass any security protocols your system may have. For most updated devices, breaking through these security protocols is a difficult and time-consuming task. On the other hand, if you’re one of the many people that never change the default login credentials on your router, it can be as easy as typing in a username and password to break into your network and extract any data flowing in or out of your network.
This same rule applies to any connected devices you may have. Just like routers, many consumers don’t know about the security risks associated with leaving the default login credentials unchanged. This rule is perhaps even more of a necessity when it comes to connected devices, due to the prevalence of botnets.
The term “botnet” is used to describe a collection of devices infected with a specific malicious software that allows a single source to control the actions of each infected device at the same time. Connected devices are commonly targeted by this malware because the default login credentials can easily be found online. Once a large enough network of botnets has been established, the hacker can then use the network to perform distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks on websites and servers alike. In addition to this, these connected devices have little to no onboard security, making the login screen the only thing stopping potential hackers from breaking into them.
While there are different ways in which you can secure your personal devices and information, following these simple tips provide a good starting point. Remember, if you’re proactive about the security on all of your internet enabled devices, you can protect yourself from the majority of hackers.
Are you one of the few people who are already following these tips? Are there any other ways in which you have secured your own devices and data? Let us know in the comments section!
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Update (11/16/2017): Armis, a cyber security firm which specializes in protecting IoT devices, released a report today which revealed a total number of 20 million Amazon Echo & Google Home devices were made vulnerable to the Blueborne attack. Both Amazon & Google have since patched out these vulnerabilities on their respective devices. These devices also auto-update by default, so if you do happen to own one of these devices, chances are you’re in the clear.