Security weaknesses in web-connected home devices can leave our senior loved ones vulnerable to those who would do them harm.
Recent internet news makes that clear.
This vulnerability is only going to grow as technology provides more solutions to help older adults have healthy, safe, and comfortable lives in the homes of their choice.
As family caregivers, there are actions we can — and must — take to protect our seniors and help them protect themselves.
If we don’t, our senior loved ones will back away from connected devices and miss out on many benefits.
Recently hackers used millions of home devices in their web attacks.
The same vulnerability used in those attacks can also expose our seniors to harm in their own homes.
We hesitate to think about what that harm could entail, but much could happen as seniors (and all of us) rely more on our digital devices.
- Healthcare devices modified to block reporting to healthcare providers or even report inaccurate data
- Personal emergency response devices (PERS) reprogrammed to ignore calls for help or send false alarms
- Power to critical home equipment turned off or the whole house darkened
- Thermostat overridden to allow the home to reach dangerous temperatures during extreme weather
These just scratch the surface, but you get the idea.
Fortunately, protection is not difficult in most cases.
Protecting Seniors’ Connected Devices
There are some basic steps we can take to reduce vulnerability of our seniors devices to threats.
- Read the label – Buy only connected devices that have security built-in, which is not always the case. Some manufacturers will rush products to the market without security, knowing most consumers don’t check.
- Know which devices in the home are connected – You can’t protect what you don’t know is vulnerable. If you can’t know everything that’s connected, check the access list on the wifi router and track down each device.
- Use strong password protection – Ensure each connected device has a strong and unique password then store those passwords in a secure app or somewhere out of reach of snooping eyes. Don’t keep default device usernames and passwords!
- Keep devices up to date – Security updates for connected devices provide patches to vulnerabilities that have been identified and should be installed quickly. Many devices check automatically but for others you’ll need to check manufacturers’ sites regularly to ensure the device is current.
- Ensure smartphone / tablet security – Many home devices can be controlled or accessed by you or your senior from mobile devices. Implement access security that is provided with the devices in case they are lost, stolen, or accessed when your senior isn’t looking. Activate settings to allow for remote locking and data wiping, along with automatic backups so important information and pictures can be recovered.
Family caregivers who want their senior loved ones to stay safe while still using technology to gain all the benefits digital devices can give might find these articles informative. Knowledge is power against cyber-attacks!