University of Wisconsin–Madison
A smart toaster with digital display

Are your smart home devices secure?

Smart TVs, smart cameras, speakers, watches, toys, phones, tablets and other internet-connected devices add convenience to our lives. Many of these popular “Internet of Things” (IoT) devices require that we share personal or financial information over the internet.

Unfortunately, the security of the devices themselves and the information you provide is not guaranteed. For example, your personal information that vendors store in databases may be vulnerable to cyber attacks or unintentionally exposed over the internet.

What can you do to help protect your personal information and keep your conversations private?

  • Only buy devices that allow you to change the password and privacy settings, and enable automatic updates.
  • Change the default usernames and passwords on your smart home devices. Create a strong and unique password using at least 8 characters (and don’t use that password on any other site).
  • Use a password manager (such as LastPass) that will remember all your passwords so you won’t have to.
  • Privacy options. If your device allows you to configure your privacy options, limit the amount of information it collects and shares. Some allow you to disable all information sharing capabilities.
  • Keep your devices updated. If your device has the option to automatically update, enable it.
  • Enable multi-factor authentication on your smart devices that offer this feature.
  • Beware of devices that are always listening. Any devices that act on voice commands are constantly listening. For example, Amazon Echo (“Alexa”) and Google Home Assistant (“Hey, Google”) can record sensitive conversations. Follow these steps for Setting up a Smart Speaker for Privacy.
  • Put your smart home device on a separate guest Wi-Fi network instead of the primary Wi-Fi network you use for your computer and mobile devices. Then if your smart device is infected, your computer and mobile devices on your primary network remain safe.
  • Keep track of what smart devices are connected to your network. You can only manage the smart devices that you know of. If you’re not sure what they are, turn off your WiFi and see what isn’t working.