KIM KOMANDO

Tech security to-do: Lock down your smart stuff before it can be hacked

Feb 18, 2024, 5:00 AM

Anything connected is a hacker target, and you better believe that includes all the Internet gadget...

Anything connected is a hacker target, and you better believe that includes all the Internet gadgets in your home. (Pexels Photo)

(Pexels Photo)

Anything connected is a hacker target, and you better believe that includes all the Internet of Things gadgets in your home.

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A quick word of wisdom before we go any further: You probably don’t think about your router much. But the single password locking it down might be the only safeguard between you and someone up to no good.

While it’s on your mind, give your router a stronger password. And if you can’t update your router, get a new one. Let’s look at more ways you can secure.

This stuff can get really scary, really fast

A family in California had their Nest security camera hacked. A voice said three missiles from North Korea were headed to the U.S. and warned them to take shelter.

An Arkansas mom didn’t know why her baby wasn’t sleeping through the night. It turns out the baby monitor was hacked by someone who talked to him every night at 10:30 p.m.

A Wisconsin couple woke up sweating because a hacker turned their smart thermostat to 90 degrees.

Isolated instances? Hardly. If you have a bunch of smart home devices in your house, you could be getting up to 12,000 hacking attempts per week. And you probably won’t even know it’s happening.

Smart home privacy doesn’t have to feel like “Mission: Impossible.” Run through these quick safety checks and you’ll be good to go.

1. You knew I was going to say it: Update!

Hackers won’t be able to mess with smart devices if you keep them encrypted and password-protected on your app and router. If it’s been a while, check your smart home apps for the latest versions and install any available updates — these can include important security improvements.

Pro tip: Look for features like Matter or Thread standards when you buy smart home tech. These give you spy-worthy security.

2. Enable auto-delete for voice assistants

Voice assistants like Alexa and Google Assistant have a bad habit of keeping track of what you say for later analysis. Hackers can use that against you. Head into their app and look for voice privacy settings. You can automatically and regularly delete your commands from the cloud.

3. Memorize your mic and cam switches

Smart speakers and displays manage your favorite playlists, instructional videos and even voice chats with friends. But if you’re worried about accidental (or intentional) eavesdropping, find and use the mic mute and camera shutter buttons on your devices.

All newer models should have these buttons, and they’ll provide guaranteed, talk-to-the-hand privacy for as long as you want.

4. Your TV is watching you right back

Sorry to break it to you, but your streaming services are tracking your activity, too. It makes sense. Netflix, Hulu and all the rest want to know what shows you like so they can recommend content you’ll enjoy and don’t mind paying for.

The monitoring isn’t for your benefit, of course. Streaming services collect your viewing history and the ads you watch or skip. Then, they share this data with advertisers.

Here’s a step-by-step guide on deleting your history on Netflix, Hulu and more.

If you have a smart TV, you also have essential settings to review. Stop your Samsung, LG, Amazon Fire TV or Roku TV from spying.

5. Stop sharing everything you buy and browse

Google always seems to know what you want, and it’s not in your head. Google tracks every search, click, message and request. Now and then, clear your search history and activity. Here’s how:

  • Go to myaccount.google.com and log in. Alternatively, go to google.com and click the circle icon in the upper right-hand corner with your image or initials inside. Then click Manage your Google Account.
  • Click Data & privacy in the left-hand menu.
  • You will see checkmarks next to Web & App Activity, Location History, and YouTube History. Click each one to adjust your settings. Toggle them off to stop further tracking if you choose.

On these pages, you can also set up Auto-delete for future activity. I highly suggest you enable this. You can choose from 3 months, 18 months or 36 months.

Keep your tech-know going

My popular podcast is called “Kim Komando Today.” It’s a solid 30 minutes of tech news, tips, and callers with tech questions like you from all over the country. Search for it wherever you get your podcasts. For your convenience, hit the link below for a recent episode.

PODCAST PICK: Meta trains its AI on your public posts

Plus, a photographer’s wild rescue from the snow thanks to a drone, a TikTok video about ghost kitchens goes viral, “The Simpsons” predicted the Apple Vision Pro, and 20 tech phrases that have disappeared.

Check out my podcast “Kim Komando Today” on Apple, Google Podcasts, Spotify, or your favorite podcast player.

Listen to the podcast here or wherever you get your podcasts. Just search for my last name, “Komando.”

Sound like a tech pro, even if you’re not! Award-winning popular host Kim Komando is your secret weapon. Listen on 425+ radio stations or get the podcast. And join over 400,000 people who get her free 5-minute daily email newsletter.

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Tech security to-do: Lock down your smart stuff before it can be hacked