Internet of Things (IoT) devices make life more convenient—only if the devices are secure.

A smart home without proper security can become a vulnerability if targeted by cyber criminals. Just ask the Illinois family whose home security camera was exploited by a hacker.

According to reports, a couple heard a strange voice coming from their seven-month-old son’s bedroom. When the father went to investigate, he discovered someone had hacked into one of his home security cameras and was talking to his child.

“I was shocked to hear a deep, manly voice talking," he said in an interview with CBS News. "My blood ran cold."

This is just one of several reports of cyber criminals exploiting smart home devices. And although there’s no concrete number of hacked IoT devices, many experts anticipate the problem will grow as the use of connected devices increases.

For this reason, IoT security is critical. Keep your smart home devices secure with these five fundamental tips.

1. Secure Your Router

Securing your smart home and IoT devices starts with your router. It’s the main piece of hardware that connects all of your IoT devices. While it’s common for homeowners to use the router provided by their Internet Service Provider (ISP), they’re not always secure. These routers come with widely known and simple-to-hack default settings and passwords that are often left unchanged.

Once your Internet is installed, change the service set identifier (SSID) and router password immediately. Enhance password security by using a complicated strand of numbers and symbols.

2. Set Up a Secondary Network

While many homeowners create secondary networks for guests and visitors, you may want to create one solely for your IoT devices. If a network breach occurs, your sensitive information, like health and financial documents, are secured on a separate network.

3. Update IoT Device Settings

Just like your router, your IoT devices come with default settings that you should update regularly. Updates often include critical security patches that keep your device protected from viruses and cyber criminals. When neglected, it’s easier for hackers to uncover flaws and breach your network.

Many IoT devices will prompt you when an update is available, but it’s a good practice to occasionally check the manufacturer’s website.

4. Activate Two-Factor Authentication

Two-factor authentication is a security tactic used to confirm a user’s identity with at least two types of the following credentials:

For example, your phone may require your passcode and your fingerprint to unlock, or your email may require a numeric code sent to your phone.

Activate two-factor authentication on all capable devices. When used properly, two-factor authentication is an effective way to add an extra layer of security on connected devices.

5. Disable UPnP

Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) is a protocol that lets connected devices easily discover each other on a network for data sharing. Although convenient, UPnP can leave your system vulnerable due to two main errors:

  • Programming errors that can be exploited by malicious users, allowing them to inject a harmful code.
  • Unintended exposure, which makes devices on a network easily discoverable by other devices on that network. However, some UPnP control interfaces can be exposed to the public networks, allowing hackers to find and gain access to your connected devices.

Always disable UPnP on your IoT devices. This will keep you from automatically sharing data with malicious users on unsafe networks.

Be Proactive with Cyber Security

While the tips in this post can help you keep your smart home and IoT devices secure, they aren’t foolproof. New cyber threats are discovered every day. Keep up on the latest cyber trends and tips with our home security blog.