By Elain Thompson.
A hacker attacks every 39 seconds, affecting 1 in 3 Americans each year—adults and kids alike. With even adults susceptible to hackers, children are even more vulnerable to sharing personal information, accidentally downloading viruses, and more.
While IoT products like your smart fridge or smart baby monitor make you and your family’s life more convenient and efficient, they aren’t 100% secure. Like a smartphone or computer, they’re continually storing information to improve its accuracy, meaning it’s saving information that hackers can access.
Kids who grew up learning how to play their favorite nursery video by speaking to Alexa or Siri are especially in danger as they’re more prone to falling prey to cybercrime. Here’s how to teach your tiny ones how to use loT gadgets safely—that way, they can still dance and listen to ‘Baby Shark’ without putting themselves in danger.
1. Use a voice remote instead of voice commands
Voice input allows your kid to do everything from use Siri to help them with their math homework to stream their favorite song. But it also means your child can access the world wide web and hear things they shouldn’t listen to—among other things. Mitigate these problems by disabling the voice command feature on your smart home devices. Doing so will prevent your kiddo’s voice from being saved, as well as protect them from accessing PG-13 (or rated R) online content.
To disable this, look for the ‘Mute’ button on your smart home devices. Some even come with remotes, which allow you to mute it from afar. Muting it will still allow you to make voice commands, but it forces you to do it intentionally—that way, nothing they say can be accidentally recorded or stored.
2. Enable PIN protection
Smart devices that connect to various apps may also store your financial information, allowing you to make voice commanded purchases. If your kids realize this, though, it can become dangerous for both them and your wallet. Stolen credit card information can be traced back to your name, age, and even address. With this, online predators can locate your child—and steal your money.
For instance, if you own Amazon’s Echo Dot device, your credit card information may be saved on your Amazon device—which can be accessed through your Echo. This allows you to make voice purchases through your Echo. Create a pin through your Alexa app to restrict how easily people can make purchases on your account. Also, be sure to disable any voice purchasing settings. Head to ‘Settings’ on your Amazon account and disable ‘Voice Purchasing.’
3. Regularly delete saved data
If, for some reason, you haven’t disabled the voice command feature on your smart home device or you’ve had the device for a while, make sure to delete any stored audio recordings—before anyone else can access them.
Smart homes store audio to improve their accuracy to voice commands, but if infiltrated, hackers can listen to your conversations, hear the sound of your child’s voice, and pick up information as simple as the school your child attends. It also allows online criminals to understand better your home schedule: when you leave for work, when you drop the kids off at school, etc.
Start by changing your smart device’s settings to ‘Mute’ (see step one), then go into your device’s settings and routinely delete voice recordings. This will usually be under the ‘History’ category, which is where you can specify voice recordings you wish to delete.
You can also call your device’s customer services to have your audio selected, or if your device offers an online portal, you can go in and manage your settings through there, as well.
4. Customize your Wi-Fi router’s password
One of the easiest ways hackers can infiltrate your system is through your router. Before you and your family settle into a new home, be sure to change both the Wi-Fi name and password on your router from its original factory, default settings. Update it frequently, at least every six months. Share this password with your child, but don’t post it anywhere in your house or on your phone.
Encourage your child not to share the password with anyone else either; doing so may lead to it being sent to the wrong person. Oversharing can give too many people access to your network, increasing your chances of a breach. If your child has friends over, access the Wi-Fi name for them.
5. Turn your smart device’s camera off
Once you’ve secured your Wi-Fi router, keep a pulse on any smart devices you own that have a camera (e.g., smart baby monitor, Amazon Show). If your smart device has a camera, hackers can gain access to the camera and watch what happens in your home from afar.
Except for outdoor-facing security cameras, turn off any cameras on your smart home devices when they don’t need to be in use. If your child isn’t in its nursery, turn off the baby monitor. When your child is home alone, for instance, disable the camera on your Amazon Show. Most smart home devices have a colored light indicating that the camera is on. If you’re not home to turn them off, you can flip them around and have them face a wall for good measure, as well.
Talk to them
Above all, talk to your kids. Warn them of the dangers online predators pose, and the dangers and using loT products. Educate them on the dangers of sharing personal information, posting things online, communicating online with strangers, and being careful about which sites and apps they access.
You can’t keep eyes on them all the time, so do what you can to make sure others’ don’t have eyes (or ears) on them either.
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