Are you managing your smart home technology or are you managing it? | Jobs Reply


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“Lights, camera, action” is not only heard on a film set these days. Chances are you’ll say it in your own home when you operate your smart home devices.

While using an app for security, lighting and entertainment can be simple, you need to understand how to protect your privacy and secure your personal information in this new age of the high life at home. We sought advice from two experts: Hank Schless, senior manager of security solutions at Lookout, a mobile security provider; and Scott McKinley, assistant vice president of Pocket Geek Home. Both responded by email, and their responses have been edited.

How do you know if you have the bandwidth in your home to handle more smart home gadgets?

Schless: Many Internet service providers have apps that help you understand how much data and bandwidth your connected devices are using. The providers will also note how many devices each of their plans can support.

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McFinloch: Depending on the number of smart high-tech devices you have in your home, and the type of techie you are, you may have different needs. The basic rule of thumb is that if you are a casual user (you use a streaming service to watch TV, you have one or two smart devices, etc.) you should aim for around 20 to 50 mbps. [megabits per second] speeds. If you have several TVs streaming 4k at the same time, various smart home devices and a gamer or two in the house, you should aim for speeds of 100 mbps or more. Don’t forget, just because you have speed doesn’t mean you have coverage. You need to make sure you do a speed test from different points in your home to determine your coverage.

If there is poor coverage in areas where you want to place a device, you may want to consider:

· Centralize your router. You can pay for great speeds coming into your home, but if your router is located in a decentralized corner of your home, your coverage is severely limited. Wi-Fi signals do not travel well through dense objects such as concrete, metal and wood. The more walls your signal has to move through, the more strength it loses. Many signal strength and coverage issues can be resolved by simply moving the router to another location.

· Upgrade your router to a mesh system. Mesh routers provide a great option to extend your coverage for those with large gaps where their Wi-Fi signal won’t reach. They provide consistent speed since they work together to extend your coverage.

· Upgrade to a Wi-Fi 6 router. Wi-Fi 6 is a relatively new technology that is faster and can handle more devices (or streams) at the same time. This gives it an advantage, but it is a standalone router so it needs to be centered in your home to be effective. If you have a central location in your home that you can move your router to, a Wi-Fi 6 upgrade may be the best option for you because of its ability to process several instructions at the same time.

When you add devices, are you more vulnerable to access to your personal information?

Schless: More devices mean more places where some of your personal data is stored. Since attacks on consumer hardware such as connected home technology typically occur at the network level, the number of devices may not affect your actual level of vulnerability.

However, you have to take into account the risk of an attack on the device manufacturer. Today, you almost always have to enter some personal information to activate a new device, which means the manufacturer has that information. If their corporate infrastructure is breached, there is a risk that your data could be exposed.

How do you protect privacy when using smart home technology?

Schless: It is important to think about protecting your personal privacy with smart home technology. The general best practice is to enable the minimum data access and permissions. With smart home technology, there is usually a minimum requirement for things like location data, access to a microphone and linked accounts for the technology to work. Depending on your personal risk tolerance and how you want to balance increased functionality with less privacy, you may choose to enable additional home technology features at the cost of slightly more personal data.

What do you do when something goes wrong with a smart home gadget?

Schless: If something seems to be malfunctioning, the best thing to do is call the manufacturer and see if they can help you fix it. However, if you feel that the device is hacked or controlled by someone else, you should first turn it off and unplug it from its power source.

McFinloch: Restart! Sometimes the quickest solution is to unplug the device, then unplug your Wi-Fi router, then power them back on after about 30 seconds and see if the issue resolves itself. Nine times out of 10, a simple reboot fixes the issue. If this doesn’t solve your issue, the next step really depends on your situation and device. If you’re a Pocket Geek Home customer, use the mobile app to access connected home device experts and self-help content for the most popular connected home devices if you prefer DIY. You can also Google the problem and see what other people have done to solve it. If that doesn’t help, your next option is to contact the manufacturer and hopefully they can help. However, today’s smart home devices are interacting with other devices. Many manufacturers have great support for their devices, but if the issue goes beyond their device, then they may provide limited or no support.

What’s the best way to keep up with software updates on your devices?

Schless: It is essential to ensure that any device you have that is connected to the Internet is running on the latest software updates. Most devices will notify you when it’s time to update but you should check every few weeks. Most updates these days are security related, so if you’re not on the latest version you could be at risk of cyber attacks. The most obvious example of this is our smartphones and tablets, which always seem to want us to update. This is not without reason, and you should always be running a security app like Lookout Mobile Security on your mobile devices. This will ensure that you are protected from malicious network connections, phishing attacks and advanced device compromise attacks.

McFinloch: Most smart home devices on the market today are powered by an accompanying mobile app. You should always make sure those apps are up to date by installing the latest updates (or setting your phone to update your apps automatically). Once the app is updated, you should have access to the latest features. Some devices such as Sonos, for example, rely on the app to push updates to the physical devices. In those cases, when you launch the latest app, it will remind you that a device update is available. When you see those messages, you should always take the time to let those updates take place to make sure you don’t experience any usability issues.



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