It’s no secret that cyber-attacks happen all the time, with an attack occurring every 39 seconds. Attacks affect 1 in 3 Americans each year. You’ve heard of people hacking phones, computers and even baby monitors, but nowadays, there are so many smart devices that your entire home could be at risk.
For instance, Jonathon S. lives in Wake County, North Carolina. One day, he noticed it was getting hot in his home so he checked his thermostat. Turns out, the thermostat was set to 90 degrees, which is a much higher temperature than Jonathan usually keeps his home set at.
At first, Jonathan thought it was his kids who had been messing with the thermostat and set it to 90. However, once he realized it wasn’t his kids he blamed the Amazon Alexa voice assistant for raising the temperature. It wasn’t until the Nest thermostat reminded him to change his air filter that he realized something wasn’t right with the thermostat.
At this point, Jonathon noticed the email account that showed up on his Nest account was no longer his email. Next, he went into the app and realized it wasn’t him that was logged into the Nest app on his smartphone.
In other words, someone had completely taken control of his Nest account and had logged into the thermostat in his home taking complete control.
Jonathan said, “Fortunately, I don’t have Nest cameras or the Nest doorbells, where they could look in on what we’re doing.” According to Nest officials, Jonathon’s password may have been exposed through breaches on other websites. He was using the same password for his Nest thermostat that he used for another website.
These days many folks are adding smart home devices to their home including things from smart refrigerators to smart door locks. The problem is, these devices aren’t like a computer where you can install anti-virus software or even use a virtual private network (VPN) to encrypt your traffic when connecting to the internet.
So, since these types of smart devices lack the ability to use a VPN, you should consider installing a VPN on your home router network to encrypt everything from the source.
With that being said, here are the general steps to installing a VPN on your router. If you aren’t a tech savvy person, you’ll definitely want to contact a family member who is familiar with routers and simply hand them these instructions…
First, many routers don’t support VPN’s by default, so it’s best to buy a router that supports open source software such as DD-WRT or Tomato firmware. To find out if your router supports DD-WRT, you can check the supported device list on the DD-WRT website.
Next, locate the server IP and login credentials for your VPN server. You can find this information on your VPN providers website.
Step one: Download DD-WRT. DD-WRT is a free firmware for routers. After logging into your router admin portal, you will want to update your router and download DD-WRT to your router and reboot the router.
Step two: Change your DNS. Your router most likely uses your internet service providers servers. But, if your goal in using the VPN is protection of your personal information, then you want to change your DNS servers.
To do so, go to the “Setup” tab in your routers admin portal and look for DNS1 and DNS2. Then, enter the following DNS servers, 22.214.171.124 and 126.96.36.199.
In addition, make sure to uncheck all three boxes for “Use DNSMasq for DHCP”, “Use DNSMasq for DNS” and “DHCP-Authoritative” and save these settings.
Step three: Disable IPv6. IPv6 information contains the specific address of each connecting device, and most VPN providers don’t use IPv6.
IPv6 is usually disabled by default when you install DD-WRT, but it’s good to double check that it actually is by navigating to “Setup”, then IPV6. If it isn’t already disabled, turn it off and then save and apply your changes.
Step four: Set up your VPN. On your router portal go to “Services” and select “VPN”. Set “Start OpenVPN Client” to “Enable” and enter your specific VPN server address and VPN log in credentials.
Step five: Reboot your router. Go to “Administration” and reboot the router.
After reboot, it should connect to the VPN automatically.
Depending on your specific router, as well as VPN, the set-up process may be a little different. For this reason, I would contact a family member or friend who is more familiar with computers if you need help going through the process.
The good thing is, once you have the VPN set up on your router it should stay on constantly so you don’t have to hassle with a VPN in the future.