How to protect your smart home with Home Guard (part 1)

How to protect your smart home with Home Guard (part 1)

Attacks on smart homes are soaring not only due to ever-smarter hacker attacks, but also because of poorly protected devices. The new Home Guard app helps you discover vulnerabilities and resolve them.

Thomas Hatley was stunned when he received a call one night: “I can switch your bedroom lights on and off”, claimed a woman on the other end of the line – whereupon his lamps did actually switch on and off. It was a blessing in disguise, as thankfully the caller was just a journalist researching a story about the security of smart home products. But it could just as well have been a hacker taking control of the home automation system undetected. Ultimately, smart homes are now the next big target for all types of cybercriminals.

Smart devices on the march

Gone are the days when computers and smartphones dominated the internet. The next generation in connectedness – the Internet of Things (IoT) – already has its foot firmly in the door. It’s long since become second nature to use an app to dim the lights, adjust the smart thermostat for the perfect temperature, and to take a peek at home sweet home remotely. But that’s just the start. While sales are on the downward slope when it comes to the traditional computer business, vendors of home networking solutions are promising the opposite, with sales on the up and up. The market researchers at Gartner forecast that the number of connected “things” will increase to an unbelievable 20.4 billion by 2020.

Greed goes before security

With the greed of making a quick buck, many vendors are neglecting the rather important topic of security. For some vendors, the most important thing seems to be getting their smart home technology out of the door and on the market as quickly as possible – meaning there’s simply no time to come up with a smart security strategy. “Many IoT devices currently flooding the market are built by companies with absolutely zero experience in software development, so they outsource the development of the connected features”, said Travis Witteveen from Avira. Tests show that many IoT devices are lacking secure encryption processes, effective virus protection, and cleanly implemented authorization and login processes preciously for this reason. But what’s so bad about a hacker switching lamps on and off remotely? Well, this isn’t what the attackers are interested in. Rather, they exploit the security flaws to sneak sabotage or snooping software into the home network. They then use these programs to infiltrate any connected computers or intercept passwords such as for online banking. Or they may even go and build a botnet.

Mirai was an eye-opener

The recent global Mirai botnet attacks were an eye-opener that showed just how insecure IoT is. To paralyze internet servers, cybergangsters combined the combined computing power of hundreds of thousands of hijacked routers, printers, webcams, and network video recorders and disrupted the websites of Amazon, Twitter, and the New York Times, among others. Shortly after that, the criminals used a variant of the same malware to launch powerful attacks against German telco Deutsche Telekom’s DSL routers, taking down close to a million customer devices for several days. But that was just the start. It’s easy for criminals to alter the latest malware to launch attacks on IoT devices. And given the constantly increasing number of unprotected devices, smart home devices are faced with the threat of further massive attacks.

Protect your smart home with Home Guard

For the time being, smart home fans have little alternative than to take the protection of the smart home into their own hands. “Making sure all connected devices are updated regularly is just as good a step as protecting the router using a strong password”, recommends Vikas Seth, Product Manager Home Guard from Avira. “Another step that’s just as important is using our new Home Guard solution”. The new app, available for Windows 10 and Android, checks all the smart devices in your home for vulnerabilities. Specifically, the app does the following:

  • Network check: Scans the home Wi-Fi network to identify all the IoT devices connected to the router.
  • Security check: Home Guard scans the network hunting for typical vulnerabilities such as open ports – a potential target for hacker attacks.
  • Device scan: Detects and checks all newly connected devices automatically. This increases the chance of identifying devices that have connected themselves to your network without you wanting them to.

Learn how to get the most out of the app in part 2.

This post is also available in: GermanFrenchItalian