We all benefit from the connectivity of modern devices. It seems everything can connect to the Internet or our smartphones, allowing us to manage our lives like never before. Welcome to the Internet of Things (IoT).

A safe and smart internet - icons representing internet connected devices

In simple terms, IoT means smart devices, like a refrigerator, thermostat or fitness tracker, that can connect to a network or the Internet and communicate. Currently, analysts estimate that there are 13 billion network-connected consumer devices, with that number expected to grow to 30 billion by 2020—and that’s not counting the billions of devices businesses use.

With that many devices connected and potentially talking with each other, additional security is critical. Think of each device as a door that could potentially give someone access to your personal information. They could also take control of the device and use it without your knowledge to hurt you or someone else.

It’s important to lock these doors and keep the bad guys out. Here are simple and smart tips to increase security on your smart devices:

  • Stay up to date on patches and software updates. Take the time to install updates when they are available. You’ll probably get an alert. These updates often strengthen security by correcting a bug in the system that bad guys could use to get in.
  • Change default passwords. Leaving a default password on your device is like leaving the key to your information under the doormat, where it can be easily found.
  • Disconnect when not in use. It may be more convenient to leave it on, but when the device is off, no one can use it.
  • Be careful about smart device apps. Many smart devices give users the option of remote control through a phone app. Only download and use smart device manufacturer authorized apps that require authentication. (Learn more about the risk of bad apps.)

In early 2017, AT&T helped form the IoT Cybersecurity Alliance. Together with some of the biggest innovators in technology and networking, the alliance will research and work to raise awareness of ways to better secure smart devices.

You can take actions now to make hacking your devices more difficult. As with any lock, it doesn’t guarantee no one can get in, but it makes it less likely.