Connected device buyers’ guide

Authored by a Symantec employee


The Internet of Things has arrived, ushering in a new era of connectivity, convenience, and wonder. It’s all about what you want, how and when you want it. Want to watch that new rom-com? No need to run out, just ask your voice-controlled hub to locate the movie, and then queue it up on your streaming video device and watch it later on your smart TV.

As hot new gadgets make our homes smarter, they’re also making them more vulnerable.

With more of our devices connecting to the Internet – smart TVs, webcams, gaming consoles, thermostats – it’s crucial to have a good defense plan for your home network.

Help protect all of your personal devices connected to your home network, not just your laptop or desktop computer, with Norton Core.

With so much to gain, it shouldn’t be surprising that consumers have not only accepted these devices, they’ve made them wildly popular: Gartner estimates that more than 21 billion connected devices will be in U.S. homes by 2020. With that many devices flooding the market, people focus on what these new devices can do for them, and tend to forget about security.

These products are quickly creating a most amazing and interesting new world: it seems that a new smart device or must-have gadget is coming out every day. But what makes these products “smart,” also creates a possible security risk. And that’s why we took a look at some of most popular connected devices people are buying right now and examine the types of data they collect and share.

Before you buy: do your research

Devices become smart because they collect an abundance of personal data. And, as we’ve learned with laptops and smartphones, anything that collects information about you and connects to the Internet can be a potential threat to your security. While collecting data isn’t necessarily a bad thing, you should know about:

- The types of data these devices collect
- How this data is stored and protected
- Whether your data is shared with third parties
- The policies or protections regarding data breaches

What type of information does the device collect?

While a primary concern with laptops and mobile devices has been the ability to protect personal information such as your name, address, birthdate, many people may not realize that IoT devices also collect different types of personal information. How do smart home hubs, thermostats, lighting systems and even coffee makers “learn” about you and what you want? Smart devices are programmed to use machine learning – a type of artificial intelligence – to help the device take the data it collects with each use, your habits and patterns of usage, to become smarter about your preferences and adjust itself accordingly. Some of the information collected by the most popular devices (such as thermostats, security cameras, voice-controlled hubs, smart TVs, streaming video players, door locks, baby monitors, and children’s toys) includes:

  • Geolocation
  • Device username and password
  • Motion sensors are often used to detect motion in a room, sensing if the user is entering or exiting a room.
  • Wi-Fi network info (this can include network name, IP address and password).
  • Personal information, such as your name, home address, date of birth, email address, phone number and more.
  • Voice and image recordings
  • Location of cameras installed in the home
  • Voice recognition (biometric information)
  • Wi-Fi network info (this can include network name, IP address and password).
  • Credit card info
  • Voice messages, chat messages, photos and videos sent by child

How is the data stored and protected?

The majority of these types of devices will store the data they collect on the company’s server. That means that this information will be transferred via the Internet, so you’ll want to make sure it is being transferred in a secure way. Look to see if encryption is being used to transfer your personal data.

Is my data shared with other companies?

Keep in mind that device manufacturer companies can and do share user data. Sometimes it can be general usage statistics sold to advertisers, and sometimes the manufacturer shares data with third parties to so devices work the way they’re supposed to. Sharing data with third parties is something you need to be aware of, as data breaches can and do happen. Look for a good privacy policy that clearly spells out what data they intend to access, save, and transmit to third parties. You can usually find privacy policies on the manufacturer’s website, typically around the bottom of the homepage.

After you buy: protect your device

Now that you’ve done your research and found your perfect new gadget, there are some things you can do to beef up your device’s security.

  • Software and firmware updates
  • Use good passwords
  • Invest in a secure router

Software and firmware updates

One thing that is often overlooked about connected devices: they are all computers, connected to the Internet. These computers, even though some are as small as a coin, are still vulnerable to malware. You can help keep these devices secure by updating any firmware or software.

Check that password

Did your device ship with a default password? If it does, the manufacturer’s website should have instructions on how to change it. Make sure the password you create is complicated, unique, and hard to guess. Avoid using the same password with any other devices, though, because while it might be easier to memorize a single password, if a hacker gets a hold of that password, they can use it on all of your devices.

What happens if something happens?

Although connected devices haven’t been around forever, you can still do some consumer research about how manufacturers handle potential issues.

Invest in a secure router

The best way to defend networked devices is to make sure that your router – your front door to your online world – is secure so it can protect your network. Here at Norton, we've been keeping a close eye on the threat landscape created by the expansion of the Internet of Things, and we’re seeing that IoT devices are now being attacked on an average of every two minutes. To help better secure today’s connected homes, we're proud to announce the brand new Norton Core router.

Available for pre-order now, Norton Core is your “Digital Deadbolt” to your connected home. As the first and only high performance, secure router with Norton protection bundled into it, Norton Core was built to secure and protect connected homes. Norton Core fundamentally changes the equation as it is built consciously, with security (data encryption, secure DNS, and automatic security updates) as the primary consideration.

Whether it’s a thermostat that can help you conserve energy, or a slow cooker that you can program remotely to start dinner so it’s ready when you get home, the Internet of Things is here to stay. As long as you understand what’s at stake, take some common-sense precautions, and safeguard your network, you should be able to enjoy all the benefits these smart new devices can offer.

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Symantec Corporation, the world’s leading cyber security company, allows organizations, governments, and people to secure their most important data wherever it lives. More than 50 million people and families rely on Symantec’s Norton and LifeLock comprehensive digital safety platform to help protect their personal information, devices, home networks, and identities.

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