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How to secure a smart home

Connected devices bring convenience—but also vulnerability

Welcome to Season 2 of Home of the Future, a six-part video series co-produced by Curbed and The Verge that chronicles the buildout of a prefab home in Austin, Texas—designed with cutting-edge technology, sustainability, and innovation in mind. This week, we find out how to make our house as secure as possible. Stay tuned for new video episodes on our Facebook page.

Smart home devices like connected cameras and locks are supposed to help secure your home. But as recent incidents involving hacked internet-of-things (IoT) devices demonstrate, smart home products themselves are vulnerable to intruders.

To find out how our Home of the Future—which has now been outfitted with a stunning array of smart technology—can be optimized for security, we turned to Nadir Izrael, co-founder and CTO of Armis Security, a company that assesses and secures computer systems.

“All these connected devices are somewhat like windows you’re adding to this house,” says Izrael. “All of them are an opening that needs to be secured, an opening into the network, in this case, and to your data. The general security of your network is only as strong as its weakest link.”

Once smart home devices are connected to the internet, they can contract viruses just like your computer, but a silver bullet for malware protection doesn’t yet exist.

According to Izrael, the best thing you can do to secure your devices is make them less of a target compared to other folks’ connected products. This comes down to basic security measures like changing passwords regularly (and always changing the default password for each device), upping your password protection with services like two-factor authentication, and keeping software updated.

Besides this sort of day-to-day security maintenance, consumers should also be aware of the valuable information they may be giving over when setting up a smart home device in the first place.

What makes these smart products convenient and useful is that they can track, catalog, learn, and potentially predict what you want them to do. Behavioral data around your home life can then become a kind of commodity.

“While governments, companies, and public opinion try to create order in this Wild West of data collection, the best thing we can do as consumers and users of these devices is be aware of the trade-offs,” says Anne Boysen, a futurist who runs a strategic consulting business in Texas.

That means taking the time to read the fine print and knowing exactly what you’re signing up for.

Watch Episode 4 of Home of the Future above to hear more from our security experts. And check back weekly to see how we kit out our house with the latest technologies for comfort, convenience, and sustainable living.