How to Secure IoT Devices in a Home Schooling Environment

As technology becomes more integrated into people’s lives, the use of IoT (Internet of Things) devices in homeschools increases in popularity. Smart home assistants, wearable fitness trackers, and interactive learning tools enhance the educational experience. Yet, they also introduce new cybersecurity risks. 

girl sitting on chair watching tablet

Photo by Patricia Prudente on Unsplash

If you are considering homeschooling your children or already doing so, protecting your family’s sensitive information is crucial. Many IoT devices have security vulnerabilities, so exploring practical strategies to secure these smart devices is important.

Why IoT technology is vulnerable

The global IoT market had a value of $595.73 billion in 2023 and may grow to $4,062.34 billion by 2032, with a CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of 24.3%. Part of this increased adoption of IoT technology is due to its educational benefits. One survey found that smart devices increase student engagement by 55%, allowing children to focus more on their studies. However, the more IoT devices you have in your home, the higher the potential security vulnerabilities.

One reason IoT devices are so vulnerable is their limited computational power and memory. Companies design these devices this way to minimize costs, leading to simplified and less secure software architectures. This often results in devices with outdated or unsupported operating systems, making it difficult to update or patch their security systems.

Furthermore, many devices ship with factory-set passwords that users rarely change. This provides an easy entry point for cyber attackers. With weak authentication protocols, hackers can exploit these tools to gain unauthorized access.

Additionally, IoT devices have limited logging and monitoring capabilities. This makes it difficult to detect suspicious activity, meaning cyber attackers can remain undetected for longer periods. Plus, when you have integrated multiple devices into a single network, the attack surface increases. If one device becomes compromised, it can provide attackers with access to other connected devices. Therefore, understanding these vulnerabilities is crucial to keeping sensitive information secure for homeschooled users.

Establishing strong authentication practices

Securing your IoT devices begins with implementing strong authentication practices. A study found that over 45% of tech users use the same password for various online accounts, greatly increasing cybersecurity risks. To protect your homeschooling environment, consider these tips:

  • Create unique, strong passwords: Every IoT device should have a password at least 10-12 characters long, using a combination of letters, numbers, and special characters.
  • Enable MFA (multi-factor authentication): MFA adds an extra layer of security by requiring a secondary verification form, such as a code sent via SMS.
  • Change passwords regularly: Make it a habit to change passwords periodically. Even strong passwords should have updates to reduce the risk of compromised security.

Various authentication practices are available. By following them, you can ensure both you and your homeschooled children remain secure.

Keeping devices and networks updated

Homeschooling has increased from 2.5 million students in 2019 to 3.1 million in the 2021-2022 school year. One of the many reasons parents homeschool their children is the freedom and flexibility. Technology has evolved and made homeschooling more accessible. However, one in four Wi-Fi hotspots is unsecured.

Ensure your smart home technology and networks are secure by regularly updating their firmware and software. Many manufacturers release security patches to address newly discovered vulnerabilities, so enabling automatic updates is essential.

Wi-Fi networks should also use encryption to keep cyber attackers at bay. Use WPA3 or WPA2 on your network for maximum security. If your home’s visitors need to use your Wi-Fi, consider installing a separate network for guests to reduce the risk potential.

Geofencing and wearable tech security

Wearable tech involves smartwatches and fitness trackers, which have become popular among parents and children. These devices typically have geofencing features, allowing parents to create safe zones for their kids and share location information in real-time. For example, a parent might set up a virtual boundary around the home or a nearby park and receive alerts if their child leaves the designated area.

While geofencing offers peace of mind, it can also introduce security vulnerabilities. Unauthorized users can manipulate these features to access a child’s location data. Therefore, managing these devices’ privacy settings and data-sharing preferences is essential. 

For instance, review the privacy settings to ensure that location sharing is limited to trusted individuals only. Avoid sharing location data on social media or with third-party apps unless necessary. Next, check which apps can access your child’s location data and turn off permissions for unnecessary apps. Ensure the data the wearable device collects is securely stored, and confirm the device does not share this information without your consent.

Creating a secure homeschooling environment

Securing IoT devices for homeschooling is crucial to protect your family’s information and maintain a safe learning space. Take steps to reduce cyberattack risks and regularly review your security practices. Every bit of action will help and support your children’s success in learning from home.

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