An important alert for anyone who uses smart cameras, Wi-Fi baby monitors, and other connected devices that send audio or video over the internet: a recent security advisory indicates millions of these devices may be at risk of remote monitoring or attack.
The root of the concern is an apparent vulnerability in the Software Development Kit (“SDK”) used with the ThroughTek Kalay network. Millions of smart devices use Kalay and its protocols to communicate over the internet.
As mentioned in the security advisory, an attacker could exploit the apparent vulnerability to intercept audio and video signals sent to and from Kalay-enabled devices. This could lead to follow-on attacks that utilize the Kalay-enabled Internet of Things (IoT) platform—such as the smart cameras and baby monitors.
What you can do to help protect your devices right now
While there is not a comprehensive list of specific devices or manufacturers that may be affected by this alert, millions of devices use the Kalay network and protocols. Given this, people who own these types of devices should strongly consider taking the following steps to protect themselves while ThroughTek and its partners actively address the issue:
1. Update your devices. Manufacturers using the Kalay protocol have been advised to update to its latest version and enable further security features. Updating your devices regularly increases the chances that you’ll receive security improvements soon after they become available.
2. Do not connect to your smart cameras, baby monitors, and other devices through public Wi-Fi. Accessing these devices via a smartphone app from an unprotected network can compromise the security of your devices. Use a VPN or a secure cellular data connection instead.
3. Use strong, unique passwords. Every device of yours should have one, along with a unique username to go along with it. In some cases, connected devices ship with default usernames and passwords, making them that much easier to hack.
Further protect your connected cameras, baby monitors, and other devices
With those immediate steps in place, this security advisory offers you a chance to take a fresh look at your network and device security overall. With these straightforward steps in place, you’ll be more protected against such events in the future—not to mention more secure in general.
1. Use two-factor authentication
Our banks, many of the online shopping sites we use, and numerous other accounts use two-factor authentication to help validate that we’re who we say we are when logging in. In short, a username and password combo is an example of one-factor authentication. The second factor in the mix is something you, and only you, own or control, like your mobile phone. Thus, when you log in and get a prompt to enter a security code that’s sent to your mobile phone, you’re taking advantage of two-factor authentication. If your IoT device supports two-factor authentication as part of the login procedure, put it to use and get that extra layer of security.
2. Secure your internet router
Your router acts as the internet’s gateway into your home. From there, it works as a hub that connects all your devices—computers, tablets, and phones, along with your IoT devices as well. That means it’s vital to keep your router secure. A quick word about routers: you typically access them via a browser window and a specific address that’s usually printed somewhere on your router. Whether you’re renting your router through your internet provider or have purchased one, the internet provider’s “how to” guide or router documentation can step you through this process.
The first thing to do is change the default password of your router if you haven’t done so already. Again, use a strong method of password creation. Also, change the name of your router. When you choose a new one, go with name that doesn’t give away your address or identity. Something unique and even fun like “Pizza Lovers” or “The Internet Warehouse” are options that mask your identity and are memorable for you too. While you’re making that change, you can also check that your router is using an encryption method, like WPA2, which helps secure communications to and from your router. If you’re unsure what to do, reach out to your internet provider or router manufacturer.
3. Set up a guest network specifically for your IoT devices
Just as you can offer your human guests secure access that’s separate from your own devices, creating an additional network on your router allows you to keep your computers and smartphones separate from IoT devices. This way, if an IoT device is compromised, a hacker will still have difficulty accessing your other devices, like computers and smartphones, along with the data and info that you have stored on them. You may also want to consider investing in an advanced internet router that has built-in protection and can secure and monitor any device that connects to your network.
We mentioned this above, yet it’s so important that it calls for a second mention: make sure you have the latest software updates for your IoT devices. That will make sure you’re getting the latest functionality from your device, and updates often contain security upgrades. If there’s a setting that lets you receive automatic updates, enable it so that you always have the latest.
5. Protect your phone
You’ve probably seen that you can control a lot of your connected things with your smartphone. We’re using them to set the temperature, turn our lights on and off, and even see who’s at the front door. With that, it seems like we can add the label “universal remote control” to our smartphones—so protecting our phones has become yet more important. Whether you’re an Android or iOS device user, get security software installed on your phone so you can protect all the things it accesses and controls—in addition to you and the phone as well.
And protect your other things too
While the apparent vulnerability in the Kalay protocol is at issue here, this security advisory stands as a good reminder to protect all of our connected things—notably our computers and laptops. Using a strong suite of security software like McAfee® Total Protection, can help defend your entire family from the latest threats and malware, make it safer to browse, and look out for your privacy too.