This simple truth bears repeating: Anything you connect to the internet runs the risk of getting hacked or controlled remotely by someone else. To help mitigate such risks, follow these privacy and security guidelines from the experts at Consumer Reports to protect the smart home devices you own.
1. Use strong, unique passwords for each device. And store them in a password manager so that you don’t forget them. For help choosing a password manager, see our comprehensive password manager ratings.
2. Use two-factor authentication, if available, on all your devices. This feature sends a second, temporary passcode to you via text, email, phone call, or an authentication app to verify that it’s you trying to log in to a device's app or site.
3. Enable automatic updates on all devices that support it (including your WiFi router). “There is no perfect smart device that is secure forever,” says Cody Feng, CR’s test engineer for privacy and security. “Automatic updates can shorten the amount of time that devices remain vulnerable to unpatched security flaws.”
4. Be thoughtful about the rooms you place smart speakers in because of their always-on microphones. Or mute them when you don’t require their assistance.
5. Periodically review and delete your smart speaker’s audio recordings. Amazon, Apple, and Google let you do this in the settings for their assistants.
6. Aim security cameras where you need them, not where you don’t. It might seem obvious, but avoid putting them in private areas, such as bedrooms.
7. Think twice about whether to give devices access to the location data from your smartphone. It might be helpful for your smart thermostat to know when you’re on your way home, but it’s not that beneficial for your video doorbell. The trade-off? You might miss out on certain features, such as the ability to share your video doorbell footage with your neighbors.
Editor's Note: This article also appeared in the January 2021 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.
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