Smart Home: Every Second Household in Germany Already Uses More Than Four Devices With Online Access

  • eco Association gives security tips for the Internet of Things
  • eco survey shows: One in four people use more than 7 Internet-connected devices
  • Looking at home router configuration can help identify potentially unsecure devices

Approximately half of German households (49.2 per cent) use more than four IoT devices. In 23.5 per cent of households, more than seven devices are connected to the Internet. Only 40.8 per cent of respondents reported having a maximum of three devices connected to the Internet, with the over-65s in particular using fewer online devices than younger people. These are the findings of a recent population-representative survey conducted by the market and opinion research institute Civey on behalf of the eco – Association of the Internet Industry.

eco Board Member for IT Security Prof Norbert Pohlmann says: “The growing interest in the Internet of Things shows how open our society is to digital innovations, whether in the smart home, the home office or assistance systems for the elderly.” However, many people are unaware of the number of devices at home are actually online or bring individual family members online – from smartwatches, TVs and household appliances to mobile phones, tablets and the like. “As the number of connected devices in the home increases, so do the security challenges,” adds Pohlmann. Hackers are specifically looking for gateways in complex networks. To prevent them from succeeding, all components of the smart home must be secure. This includes not only the associated smartphone apps or the provider’s cloud. Users can stay on top of things at home by regularly checking their router settings and all devices that are currently online.

Security awareness exists

Most people in Germany (61.4 per cent) are aware of potential security risks, and in an eco survey in May 2023, named security measures that should be followed. 38.6 per cent only want to use devices with a security certificate, 37.6 per cent say that default passwords should be changed and 35.7 per cent do not want to connect some devices to the Internet. The eco Association offers 7 tips for a safe Internet of Things at home:

  • Check how many devices on your home network are online

It is easy to lose track of which devices are connected to the Internet at home – new televisions, washing machines and refrigerators, for example, connect to the WWW and then forget about it. Have you ever shared your WiFi password with friends or neighbours? Check your router at home regularly, for example in the “Network” menu, to see which devices are connected to the Internet.

  • Keep devices up to date

Users should regularly check for and install updates for all Internet of Things devices. It can be helpful to make a list of all your devices and check it at regular intervals.

  • Change default passwords

The default passwords for many smart home devices can be easily found on the Internet and are the most common entry point for cybercriminals. You should, therefore, change default passwords immediately and use a strong password that includes letters, numbers and special characters. There is still a risk if devices have maintenance access with a password set by the manufacturer.

  • Keep smart home devices and sensitive data on separate networks

If you have a large number of IoT home devices, create a separate network for them. This will minimise the risk of attackers gaining access to sensitive data on users’ computers, tablets or mobile phones via insecure smart home devices. You can also monitor the flow of data on this network to draw conclusions about unauthorised access. If the smart home devices are supposedly switched off but there is still a lot of traffic on this network, the coffee machine could be working for someone else who is using it for cyberattacks such as DDoS attacks.

  • Look for security certificates

Consumers can minimise their risks by looking for security certificates such as the “IT-security label” from the German Federal Office for Information Security (BSI). It enables “real-time monitoring”. Using a QR code on the device, users can check for vulnerabilities or available security updates on a daily basis.

  • Don’t connect older devices to the Internet

Older devices generally do not receive updates and do not have a security certificate. Special care should be taken with devices that process sensitive data, such as smart door locks and surveillance cameras. If possible, such devices should only be connected to their base station (gateway), which performs control tasks, and not directly to the Internet.

  • Use all available security mechanisms

If devices offer additional security mechanisms, such as https encryption or two-factor authentication, users should use them. They should also disable unused features and connections. The more functions you control online, the more opportunities allow you all unneeded interfaces and functions in the settings following the principle of minimalism.

The Internet of Things will also be the focus of the Mobile World Congress #MWC24 from 26 to 29 February. eco will be there with its member companies Janado and VS-Apps as part of the NRW joint stand. The Head of the IoT Competence Group, Dr Bettina Horster, will take on the role of state representative and together with eco, will represent North Rhine-Westphalia as a business location. Please contact Tatjana Hein (IoT CG) by email to arrange a personal meeting at MWC in Barcelona.

Smart Home: Every Second Household in Germany Already Uses More Than Four Devices With Online Access 1

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Smart Home: Every Second Household in Germany Already Uses More Than Four Devices With Online Access