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The Weekly Echo: Smarter security for the Internet of Things

The Weekly Echo: Smarter security for the Internet of Things

Connected Home
October 14, 2015

Hey there, thanks for stopping by The Weekly Echo, where we’ve been talking about the Amazon Echo and the Internet of Things. Last week, we asked the question, “How can we secure the Internet of Things?” This week, along with an Alexa update that I’m absolutely loving, we’ve also got some tips from the Federal Bureau of Investigation on how to make sure your smart devices don’t turn you dumb security-wise.

Alexa finally has a sleep timer

I’ve been asking for this ever since the Amazon Echo first came out, because I fall asleep best with some soothing music playing. Unfortunately, there wasn’t any easy way to make sure the music stopped playing once I’d fallen asleep. With Alexa’s latest update, though, there is now a sleep timer built into the Amazon Echo. Here’s how to make it work:

  • Tell Alexa to play your favorite relaxing music. For example, “Alexa, play Enya from Prime Music.”
  • Set your sleep timer. Just tell your Echo, “Alexa, set a sleep timer for 30 minutes.”
  • For a nice touch, say, “Alexa, good night.”

That’s all it takes. You’ll get your soothing tunes as you drift off to dreamland, and Alexa will stop the music after the timer is elapsed.

Image credit: The Verge

Image credit: The Verge

Why does security matter for the Internet of Things?

Now let’s talk a bit more about security and the Internet of Things. You might wonder what difference it makes if someone hacks your Nest thermostat or your smart coffee maker. Other than uncomfortable temperatures and coffee when you don’t expect it, you might also have some physical dangers come about because of insecure smart devices: front doors unlocking on their own, compromised medical devices, and disabled security systems.


But that isn’t all. Once a hacker gains access to one of your devices, they can branch off from there to the rest of your network. You might not think that the Amazon Dash Button is too dangerous, but it is a computer and can be used to send scripts to your desktop or laptop, or even your iPhone. Once the hacker gains access to one of the devices on your network, it’s only a matter of time before they steal your personally identifiable information, log into your bank accounts, get your credit card numbers, or carry out countless other nefarious tasks.


Does that mean you just avoid the Internet of Things like the plague? No, of course not, but you have to be smart about it. Since it’s National Cyber Security Awareness Month, the FBI has given these tips for making sure your minimize your risks:

  • Understand your IoT devices. Many come with default passwords or open Wi-Fi connections, so change to a strong password and only allow the device to operate on a network with a secured Wi-Fi router.
  • Protect your Wi-Fi networks—set up firewalls and use strong, complex passwords, and consider using media access control address filtering to limit the devices able to access your network.
  • Many routers give you the option to set up more than one network—if yours does, separate your computing devices from your IoT devices and spread them throughout several different networks. That way, if cyber criminals break into one network, the damage they do will only be limited to the devices on that one network.
  • Disable the Universal Plug and Play protocol (UPnP) on your router—UPnP can be exploited to access many IoT devices.
  • Purchase IoT devices from manufacturers with a track record of providing secure devices, and set your devices for automatic updates when available.

Thinks smarter with your Internet of Things devices, and you can enjoy their convenience without worrying about losing your identity (or shirt). It only takes a few steps to implement these security measures, and very little time, so get things configured the way they should be. Then enjoy your smart thermostat and lighting.

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