Updated: May 3
The home of today is very different to that of 10 or even five years ago – everything from your fridge to your TV links up to the internet and has more processing power than you thought white goods would ever need.
With this new-fangled technology, however, comes a raft of new security issues that most of us simply can’t afford to ignore. Here are a few things to consider and do, to protect yourself in this new domestic landscape, look after your family online and make your home network highly secure.
The Internet of Things
The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to the growing number of devices we use around the house that connect to the internet. From virtual assistants to smart toasters, these new devices simplify our lives – however, they also offer those who would do us harm the opportunity to break in to our networks.
The problem with these new devices isn’t that they’re inherently susceptible to cyber attack, but that we very rarely take the necessary steps to properly secure them. How often do any of us fully read the instructions for a new gadget before ripping off the packaging and pressing the on button? Let alone take the time to change the password to anything but the default.
Being over-excited when you buy a new piece of tech isn’t anything unusual, but by not taking the time to set your new device up properly, you can leave it vulnerable to being hacked. Make sure your network is protected against cyber attacks by setting new, secure passwords on every smart device you bring home.
Stay Up To Date
Staying up to date may sound like an obvious thing to do, but you’d be surprised by just how many people jeopardize their security by not updating their computers, tablets or mobile phones.
We’ve all ignored a pop-up message on our computer before – they have a terrible habit of reminding us about software updates at the most inconvenient time. But neglecting to update your computer straight away can mean the difference between having the latest protection against a particularly harmful computer virus, and being totally defenceless.
Updates cost nothing and only take a few moments to install, so it’s always wise to update your software as soon as possible.
Use a VPN
A VPN, or virtual private network, is a service that allows you to connect to the internet via a server on a independent network rather than through your internet service provider. This conceals your real IP address and means that you and your family can surf the web with greater anonymity. VPNs also encrypt your data, ensuring that everything you transfer online gets from A to B without being viewed or stolen.
VPN services are an inexpensive way to protect your personal details, especially if you’re doing something that poses a risk to your data like banking or shopping online. If you’re technically minded you can configure a VPN client on your router, but if not, you can simply install app versions to protect your family across multiple devices.
There are various VPN services that you can choose from. It is important to research your providers before purchasing.
Cyber criminals know plenty of ways for getting past your digital defenses, but it may surprise you to learn that one of the most common is simply guessing your password.
Using the same password for everything, or a commonly used password, is a bad idea. Take a few minutes to log in to your accounts and strengthen yours if this is something you’re guilty of.
If you think you’ll struggle to remember lots of different secure passwords, you can always adopt a password manager too. These securely store your passwords, meaning you only need to focus on remembering the one that logs you into the password manager itself rather than dozens.
With high-profile data breaches appearing in the media all the time, being aware of the risks that social media pose to your privacy is important – particularly if you have gregarious teenagers in the house.
Young children and teenagers who have grown up with social media, though they may be aware of its pitfalls, can still unwittingly post information that can put them at risk. For example, if you haven't changed your privacy settings on certain social media platforms, you can end up sharing your location when making posts or uploading photos.
For this reason, it’s wise to talk to your children about the dangers of the digital world and to explain how they can protect themselves online. It’s also worth discussing what and how much they share on social media, either by changing their settings or reminding them to take a moment before each post to consider what they’re sharing.
Back-Up Your Data
Backing up your data is the cornerstone of online security and is one of the simplest methods of safeguarding against ransomware, a particularly devious form of cyber attack that works by preventing you from accessing your data and then demanding a payment to get it back.
Backing up your data offline or on a cloud service is an easy way of circumventing this sort of attack. That way, if someone in your family does happen to download ransomware accidentally, you can ignore the threats about permanently losing your data. Instead, you’ll know it’s safely stored somewhere else and can be replaced.
Protecting your family is paramount. Fortunately, keeping your family and their data safe online is much easier than you might think and there are lots of precautions that you can take.
Like locking your front door, regularly updating your computer software and using complex passwords can protect your family from online threats. While using antivirus may now be commonplace, with up-to-date software and the other basics in place you can move on to extra security, like VPNs, to double bolt your digital door and keep everyone free from danger.
Don’t forget that educating your children about online security and the perils of social media is also important, and will mean they know how to navigate the challenges of growing up in a digital age without you constantly looking over their shoulder.
Tabby Farrar is a professional researcher and copywriter, specializing in content around technology, health & wellness. When she isn't putting together tips and tricks around online security, using insight from well-known companies like Avast VPN, she can be found writing for her own website, JustCantSettle.