This is just one step in a series created to help anyone improve their online security regardless of their technical knowledge. For more information, see our complete Simple Online Security series.
If you own connected devices (aka Internet of Things devices), you have some special security considerations. First off, the most important precautions you should take are covered in our step about securing your home Wi-Fi network: Changing your router’s default password to one that only you know can help secure everything on your home network, including all those smart devices. From there, it’s about using unique passwords, turning on two-factor authentication when you can, and making sure you have a thorough understanding of the privacy settings for each of your devices.
Use a unique password: Always change the default password (and make it unique) on every connected device you bring home or every account you need to manage it. If you don’t, an outsider can much more easily snoop on your account or gain access to other account details.
Turn on two-factor authentication: Using a unique password and enabling two-factor authentication (when supported) will put a stop to the majority of issues we’ve seen with connected devices over the years. We’ve gathered links to the directions for enabling two-factor authentication for most of the popular companies. (If the maker of your device isn’t listed here, run a search to see if it does offer the feature and we simply missed that company. If that search comes up empty, send the company a support request to ask for two-factor authentication.)
Apple (HomePod, HomeKit)
Arlo (doorbells, security cameras)
D-Link (anything compatible with the Mydlink app)
Ecobee (thermostats, sensors, cameras)
Eufy (devices compatible with the eufySecurity app only)
Google (Google Home, Nest)
Ring (cameras, lights, alarms)
Wyze (cameras, locks, thermostats)
Yale (smart locks)
Automatic updates: Any good smart-home device should have automatic updates enabled by default, but double-check that any device you bring into your home has this feature. Security updates are crucial for any smart-home device, and if a company doesn’t support this basic feature, you should consider another product.
Adjust privacy settings: Some of these devices allow you to share access with another person, or they might store information online that you’d prefer they didn’t, so check the settings page in the corresponding app to confirm that you’re not disclosing anything you don’t mean to. For example, Ring’s Neighbors app is a whole social ecosystem for sharing videos with neighbors (and police departments), and most smart-speaker platforms have a human review the recordings for accuracy (Slate has a guide to opting out of these recordings). Even your TV might be spying on you, so check out Consumer Reports’s guide to turning off snooping features. If you have game consoles, tweak the settings on those, too. Most smart devices from reputable companies offer a way to keep your accounts private or to share less information with the company, but you often have to dig for those options.