Necessary, But Be Cautious

I have written several posts on the need for seniors moving to Panama to adopt using a certain amount of technology. I personally couldn’t live here without the Internet and a smart phone.

However, adopting new technology requires a reasonable amount of discipline to keep yourself safe. And even then you will never be totally safe.

I have developed a new interest in utilizing more technology and in doing so some of my newly gained knowledge leads me to think it is time for another security post.

If you are not familiar with the term IoT, it means the Internet of Things. I recently ordered an Amazon Dot to play with and it is the reason I started learning about the IoT.

Now, you may think, this doesn’t apply to me so you might as well bypass this post. I encourage you to hang around a little longer.

If you move to Panama, the Internet becomes very important, if it wasn’t before. You will need to look at bank accounts in the US, you will need to communicate with family back home using email, Skype, WhatsApp, etc. You may need to use Waze to find your way home. You may need to use WhatsApp as a neighborhood watch notification tool.

I can see a few heads nodding. All of these things will require a password. Many of you are using simple passwords, or even worse, one password for multiple sites. If you are not using a unique hardened password for each site or email, you are greatly at risk.

I use a unique, hardened password for all websites, emails, etc. as well as my home router. Your router is vulnerable if you just brought it home and plugged it in and did not change the administrative logon ID and password. I have several posts on passwords that can be found on Chiriquí Chatter, by searching for “passwords”.

Many routers come with a default admin ID of “admin” and password of “admin”. Knowing that, a hacker can park in front of your house, login to your router and gain access to your router, email, WiFi or worse. Do you think your neighbor might be using your bandwidth? He might very well be if you have not managed your WiFi and router admin passwords.

Many of us, in Panama, have installed alarm and camera systems. I guess it would be better to say that many of us have had those systems installed. Do you trust the people that did the installation. Did you change the admin ID and password after the installers left. If not, then you left the ability for them to know when you are in the house, or not, and gain information about you.

If you have cameras that can be watched over the Internet, is your password hardened? These are things to think about.

Do you keep information, you think is important, encrypted on your laptop? If not, and your laptop is stollen, the hard drive is easily read.

Do you use WEP security on your router. If so change it to WAP. If your router only supports WEP, through the router out and buy a new router. If you don’t know, assume the worst.

The problem, with the IoT, is much greater in the US than in Panama because of all the Smart Home devices being sold in Home Depot, Lowes and Amazon. They are being sold to novices that don’t realize how dangerous they can be if hacked.

They buy a smart lock and connect it to a hub and lock and unlock a door with an Amazon Echo/Dot and don’t realize that the devices they bought may be sending unencrypted information into the cloud that could be received by a hacker and used to unlock your door or turn off your alarm.

I am convinced that a growing occupation in the US may be one of consulting people who think they have Smart Homes into hardening them against hackers.

If you made it to here, say, “Whew!”. Hopefully, if it did nothing else, it at least encouraged you to improve your password management.

8 thoughts on “Necessary, But Be Cautious

  1. Great post Don ! I’ll add the magic jack too the list. I have one laptop Just for the magic jack and thus I have my US home phone ringing on both floors even when I’m JUST not attached to some freaking device.

  2. I recently got an Echo Dot and have some Hue bulbs and a smart sprinkler. I worry a bit about how well their communications are secured. For home cameras, I use Linux boxes with zoneminder serving SSL only. I am more paranoid than some others, but I still wonder what I may be leaving open.

  3. Just ran into a problem with Magic Jack. My iPhone died and so I bought an Android Phone, did not see the need for an iPhone any longer. I had the Magic Jack App on my iPhone. I went to install the Magic Jack App on my Android Phone and after several hours of “Chat” with Magic Jack, find out that I cannot transfer my Magic Jack App and Number from my iPhone to my Android Phone. Magic Jack does not have a way to do that. They say I have to buy a new Magic Jack Appliance, register it, get a new number for that appliance and then I can buy a new Magic Jack App and number for my Android Phone. Now this is after having bought my first Magic Jack Appliance 2 months after they came out, who knows how many years ago. I have always upgraded as they came out with better ones. We have the top Magic Jack appliance with our old phone number from California in our office, so friends and family can still call us for free. We had Magic Jack Apps on both our iPhones so that Connie and I could call each other for free. Now they want me to buy yet another appliance to get the App on my new Android phone!

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