Your house may be spying on you. Save yourself.
All the devices embedded in our homes put us at risk. Here’s how—and what you can do to protect yourself.
The seemingly benign digital devices we have in our homes may actually threaten our well-being.
Already the average U.S. household now has more than 10 internet-connected devices in residence, and that number is rapidly growing—both in the United States and across the globe.1 Indeed, by 2023, it is estimated there will be three times more networked devices on the planet than humans.2
Yet all these new “smart devices,” including fitness equipment, digital personal assistants, gaming consoles, thermostats and security cameras, etc., can potentially endanger not only our privacy and physical safety, but our finances as well. Just think: Even President Biden’s Peloton bike had to be modified so it would not endanger U.S. national security.
Of course, no one is likely to give up the digital gadgets that make life easier and fun. But it is wise for all of us to recognize there’s a new and urgent need to guard the door into our lives that internet-enabled devices prop open.
The digital embrace increases—exponentially
How many internet-connected devices do you have at home right now? Don’t just count the televisions, gaming consoles, computers, printers, laptops, tablets, phones, digital watches, digital personal assistants, music systems and nanny cams.
We also have to keep an eye on the ever-growing list of internet-enabled devices that help make our homes a Sanctuary. That includes security systems and all the smart devices installed in our homes: refrigerators and vacuums as well as lighting, thermostats, and yes, workout equipment.
In fact, property technology, or “PropTech,” is already a new category in the world of real estate. Smart home technology has even become standard in some upscale homes and multi-family dwellings.
Face the threat
How dangerous might these devices be to you and your family?
Your digital conveniences—fitness and health data, home entertainment systems, energy usage, voice recordings and sites you access—all can be used to build a profile of you and your family that criminals can leverage to commit financial fraud, privacy invasions and even home break-ins, both physical and cyber.
You might not have even been aware you signed terms and conditions to allow these devices to listen, collect usage data and allow manufacturers to sell or share your information with third parties.
Cybercriminals can put even the most innocent-seeming devices to nefarious uses:
- A home thermostat could reveal you are not at the house during the week and only home on the weekends when the temperature has been remotely set higher.
- A smart vacuum can create a map of your home layout and share the data back to the manufacturers, potentially giving insights to thieves.
- Fitness equipment could be used to listen to your conversations, as well as capture and share your personal health information.
Protect yourself now
It’d be natural to think that internet connectivity is so woven into our daily lives that there is little you can do—or to despair, thinking that meaningful action would require hours of your time or a tech-obsessed teenaged child. Not so. There are some simple things you can do fairly quickly.
First, we recommend that you have at least two separate networks in your home. Use one for all your business, sensitive transactions and remote work. Dedicate a separate network for less sensitive transactions, for instance, your children's or parents’ online activities, schoolwork, family entertainment and social media. If you have a highly connected home, consider adding a third network, possibly solely for smart devices.
Next, and it cannot be stressed how important this simple step remains: Make sure your passwords are complicated, changed regularly, and different across devices and networks. Consider using a reputable password manager to help you securely manage all those usernames and passwords.
Put a webcam cover on your computers, laptops, tablets and fitness equipment when you’re not using their cameras. And be sure to put your devices on “mute” when you’re not using them.
Avoid adding new smart devices to your home network without professional input, as correct device set up is as critical as device security. And, before you move into a new home, find out what sort of internet-enabled devices may be built into them.
Help is available
You do not have to tackle the challenge of your digital life alone. While President Biden obviously has top security professionals watching his digital back, you can enlist the help of experts too. Many reputable firms can help you with both installation and security upkeep.
You also can contact your J.P. Morgan team to learn more about our cybersecurity and fraud awareness programs, or to schedule a session with our cybersecurity experts.
And you can stay aware of the latest trends and protection measures you might take by simply visiting our Cybersecurity and Fraud Prevention Hub on a regular basis. To understand how you can more securely utilize the various “smart devices” in your home, follow these best practices.
The world of home tech is changing rapidly. Keep you and your family safe.