Sometimes I feel like I’m the Grinch at a party when I talk shop about the latest massive data breach or horrible hacker story that is in the news. We say things like, “It’s not if, but when” there will be another data breach. Well, this week was no different, as we saw news reports of a family with a Nest wireless smart home camera that was hacked. The hacker threatened to kidnap their baby and terrified the family. So what happened, and should you return that smart home device you just bought for a holiday gift?

The answer according to Nest was that this family’s nightmare was not a data breach of company data but rather was the result of a bad actor who hacked into the family’s home wireless system.

For those who are like me and are fascinated with the latest gadgets and want to be able to use smart home technology, the answer is simple: change the default password that comes with the gadget and enable two-factor authentication.

  • First, make sure that you choose a complex password. Though this is hardly big news and is certainly not foolproof, it certainly beats using Password123 or the name of the family pet as your password.
  • Second, if you already bought, or you already own smart home technology, you can enable two-factor authentication. For the Nest application, go into the Account settings, go to Manage Account, then to Account Security and choose 2-step verification. After putting in a phone number, the system will send a code to the phone and the authentication process will be complete.

Two-factor authentication adds an extra layer of security to Wi-Fi enabled technology. The second layer of that security involves a text that requires the user to input a code or use a biometric confirmation of identity (such as a fingerprint). This verification is sent specifically to the individual. This feature can be enabled for other wireless smart home devices as well. For those of us who want the convenience and peace of mind that we love about our smart home devices, the minor inconvenience of responding to and entering a text code or thumbprint into our phone is a small diversion that can really make a difference. Not even the Grinch wants to come home to find a stranger talking to them on their smart home device.