28 March 2017

Home networks need to be more secure

Faster and more affordable Internet connections are driving more home users in Southeast Asia to deploy Internet-connected devices at home. At the same time, connectivity is enabling more employees to work remotely, including from home. While connected devices at home provide greater convenience and enable faster communication, ‘home networks’ can become easy targets for cyber criminals, cautions Fortinet, a global player in high-performance cyber security solutions.

“Recent Internet of Things (IoT) -based attacks have revealed the sheer volume and ease by which billions of connected devices can be weaponised and used to disrupt the digital economies of entire countries and millions of users. These issues are compounded by the lack of basic security features and management capabilities in many IoT devices,” said Peerapong Jongvibool, VP, Southeast Asia and Hong Kong, Fortinet.

“As our work and social networks expand into the home, so does the potential threat footprint. With more employees working from home, corporate offices are being regularly linked to these hyper-connected and often poorly secured home networks. It is critical that we take a fresh look at how we are protecting ourselves from the growing number of networks we interact with.”

Sensitive personal, financial and medical information, as well as work assets are all at risk from increasingly sophisticated malware and financially motivated cybercriminals, Fortinet says.

According to market research firm IDC, there will be nearly 9 billion connected devices across Asia Pacific by 2020. Connected devices on the home network range from smart TVs, entertainment and gaming systems, smart refrigerators, to online home security systems. Many home networks also include wireless medical devices, and tools designed to track and monitor children or elderly family members. All of these devices are connected to the Internet through a home Wi-Fi system, or increasingly, a home area network (HAN) combined with network-attached storage (NAS) and cloud-based applications that are accessible from any device, anywhere.

Fortinet proposes three strategies for home users to secure increasingly complex home networks:

1. Learn

With the increasing number of portable IoT and other devices installed or used at home, it may be difficult to know exactly what is on the home network at any given time. Even harder is controlling what they are allowed to do. There are a number of security tools specifically designed for the home which can identify devices looking to connect to the Internet through Wi-Fi network. Many of them can be easily configured to provide them with access to the guest network, while restricting and monitoring the kind of traffic they are generating.

Before purchasing a device that wants to connect to the network, ask some questions. Not every device that wants to connect to the network needs to.

Next, research these devices with an eye towards security. Many connected devices include vulnerable software or backdoors that make them potential targets. And far too many of these devices cannot be hardened, patched, or updated.

2. Segment

Home owners can apply a network segmentation strategy to protect their resources.

Buy separate wireless access points for separate uses, like gaming systems and IoT devices versus PCs and laptops.

Set up a wireless guest network for visitors or new devices. Most access points allow users to restrict access, set up things like firewalls, and monitor guest behaviour.

Consider purchasing a separate, inexpensive device that is only used for sensitive tasks like online banking. Users could also set up a separate virtual device on their laptop or PC for banking online to protect their critical resources.

Keep work and personal devices separated. Set up a separate connection for work, only connect through a VPN tunnel, and consider encrypting sensitive data travelling back and forth between home and corporate networks.

3. Protect

Home networks and devices tend to become infected because security is notoriously lax.

Keep a list of all the devices and critical applications on your network, including the manufacturer. Set up a weekly routine to check for updates for physical and virtual devices, operating systems, applications, and browsers.

Get antivirus and anti-malware software, keep them updated, and run scans regularly. Remember that no software is 100% effective, so set up a regular schedule, say once a month, where a second or third security solution is used to scan devices or networks. Many solutions provide a free online version or let users run a free trial or demo version for a period of time.

Get a firewall. Most home security packages include a firewall option. Turn it on. Even the default settings are better than doing nothing.

Use good password hygiene. Change your passwords every three to six months. Use a password manager to store passwords. Use different passwords for different kinds of things. Do not mix personal and work passwords.

Password managers have been developed to help manage passwords, and all that is needed is to keep track of a single master password. This technology will also automatically create strong random passwords for each application, and store them in an encrypted format.

“Given the rate at which technology is changing, users can no longer afford to simply load an antivirus tool onto their laptop and think they are going to be protected. As users begin to use and interconnect more and more devices, and blend their personal, social, and work lives, security is increasingly important,” said Jongvibool. “It is critical that users begin to develop a strategy now for learning, segmenting, and protecting their network, resources, data, and privacy.”

posted from Bloggeroid