8 Ways to Protect Your Home From Hackers

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Nothing is 100 percent secure. That's especially true for homes chock full of devices chirping away day and night on the internet. But there are simple steps to minimize the risk of hackers turning homes into surveillance fish-bowls or recruiting appliances for zombie bot armies. It starts with self-awareness: the number one cause of security breaches is human error, usually when someone clicks a malicious link that allows unauthorized access or loads malicious software. Here's what you can do to minimize the risk:

→ Don't buy unsecured devices. Sometimes the cool factor can cloud your decision-making. Do your research before you make a purchase. Are there known vulnerabilities with the device that can expose your home network?

→ Harden your home WiFi router. Set up a unique username and password. Update the router consistently. Close open ports that are not being used and enable the router's firewall and the devices' firewalls.

→ Take an inventory of all your connected devices and associated MAC and IP addresses and write them all down. That way, you can easily identify and remove them from the network in the event one of your devices is breached. If you create a file for this on your computer, make sure you keep it password protected.

→ Keep your smart home devices separate from your regular home network by setting up a separate guest network to connect them to.

→ Check all connected devices for factory-installed username and passwords. Change them to unique combinations and if they can't be updated, swap them out for a more securable version.

→ Update all firmware and software for all devices on a consistent basis. Manufacturers often include "fixes" for vulnerabilities.

→ Review the settings on all your connected devices for privacy and data sharing. Are they sharing data with a third party? Do they need to be providing your utility company (or whomever) a constant stream of your data? If not, then turn it off.

→ Do not click on any update links provided to you via email from any of the manufacturers. Instead, go to the manufacturer's website and download the update directly.

Kimberly Burke is chief operating officer of TecKnow, a firm in Westport, Connecticut that specializes in smart-device home networks.

8 Ways to Protect Your Home From Hackers