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Vacuums, refrigerators and thermostats – OH MY! Take a stroll through the homewares section of your favorite store and you are likely to find that nearly all home appliances lighting, and thermostats have a “smart” model or feature. Such is the reality of the Internet of Things (IoT).

With two IT professionals in our household, we run it a bit differently than most. For example, we have used a connected door lock for several years that sends us text messages when a code is used to enter the house. This is a huge improvement over the key on a shoestring that I used as a teenager. Even so, I had never considered running my vacuum from an app on my phone until a recent shopping trip.

Utilizing some of the new “smart” or Internet of Things home devices can be an awesome convenience or time-saver. Powering devices on/off, adjusting volume and lighting, all with voice commands – that’s pretty cool. And using a “smart” thermostat to adjust the heating/cooling needs of your home after it detects that you are “away” is an eco and budget-friendly option – I have seen a 5 percent reduction in our utility bills since installing ours.

“In the pursuit of convenience, we have to sacrifice privacy…” – Alex Cranz, Gizmodo

But for voice-controlled devices or a central hub to take action on your voice command, it must be listening. Yes, it is always listening and sending that captured data back to its controlling server, which is something to think about the next time you are talking about confidential information (like reading your credit card number and security code over the phone for a purchase).

I’m not advocating to not utilize Alexa, Google, or Siri voice command services. We just need to treat them like another person in the room hanging on your every word. Perhaps you want to call in that payment information from a private location instead of your living room.

Additionally, make sure to treat smart devices like any other computer or computer networking device by immediately changing the default username and password upon installing it and then check for any firmware updates to patch known vulnerabilities. Patch all programs or apps used to run your smart devices using automatic updates when possible.

Lastly, before purchasing the latest and greatest new connected device, consider how you will use the functionality gained by its connection. Will you use it at all? For me, I purchased a robot vacuum but decided that having it run on a schedule vs. from an app on my smartphone was my best option.

Want to know more? Check out this recorded webinar “Securing Smart Devices: Cybersecurity in the Age of the Internet of Things.”