FBI Portland
Beth Anne Steele
(503) 460-8099
December 3, 2019

Tech Tuesday: Internet of Things (IoT)

Welcome to the Oregon FBI’s Tech Tuesday segment. Today: Building a digital defense in your Internet of Things.

Last week we talked about smart TVs—and how that built-in Internet connection can allow manufacturers, streaming services, and even hackers an open door into your home.

This week, we are looking at the larger Internet of Things (IoT). Basically, this means everything else in your home that connects to the world wide web. If you look at the holiday wish lists that your kids, spouse, and parents conveniently dropped on you last week at Thanksgiving—most everything on there probably makes the cut.

Digital assistants, smart watches, fitness trackers, home security devices, thermostats, refrigerators, and even light bulbs are all on the list. Add to that all of the fun stuff: remote-controlled robots; games and gaming systems; interactive dolls; and talking stuffed animals … well, the list seems endless.

What these all have in common is that they send and receive data. But do you know how that data is collected? And where it is going?

Another concern is that hackers can use that innocent device to do a virtual drive-by of your digital life. Unsecured devices can allow hackers a path into your router, giving the bad guy access to everything else on your home network that you thought was secure. Are private pictures and passwords safely stored on your computer? Don’t be so sure.

Here’s what you can do to build that digital defense:

  • Change the device’s factory settings from the default password. A simple Internet search should tell you how—and if you can’t find the information, consider moving on to another product.
  • Passwords should be as long as possible and unique for IoT devices.
  • Many connected devices are supported by mobile apps on your phone. These apps could be running in the background and using default permissions that you never realized you approved. Know what kind of personal information those apps are collecting and say “no” to privilege requests that don’t make sense.
  • Secure your network. Your fridge and your laptop should not be on the same network. Keep your most private, sensitive data on a separate system from your other IoT devices.
  • Make sure all your devices are updated regularly. If automatic updates are available for software, hardware, and operating systems, turn them on.

As always, if you have been victimized by a cyber fraud, be sure to report it to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at ic3.gov or call your local FBI office.