Google amps up security for Nest smart home devices

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Nest cameras hacked
Photo courtesy of Nest

Google’s recently acquired line of Nest smart home devices is no stranger to public scorn following security scandals. Users have been asking for months for better security for these devices due to their highly personal nature.

Now, Google is finally rolling out a change. It recently added Nest devices to its Advanced Protection Program—an offering that adds better account protections for users at a higher risk of being targeted, like politicians and journalists.

Security Boost

Google’s Advanced Protection Program isn’t a new thing per se. Users have been able to utilize it for their Google account for some time after the program launched back in 2017. Now, it is available to those that want to enable it for their Nest devices.

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“Since we launched, one of our goals has been to bring Advanced Protection’s features to other Google products,” says Shuvo Chatterjee, product manager for the Advanced Protection Program. “We want as many users as possible to benefit from the additional levels of security that the Program provides.”

Essentially, it allows users to activate a series of stricter security features if they feel they are at high-risk. One of the most important is a requirement for a physical security key. Moreover, users will be able to add anti-malware protections and limit third-party access to account data.

Google notes that adding additional security features to its Nest platform was a “top request” from users.

Smart and Safe

In recent years, smart home devices have become exceedingly popular. So popular, in fact, that a smart home device maker just bought GE’s lighting division—which is nearly 130 years old. However, the growing Internet of Things (IoT) is plagued by poor security.

Devices don’t often like to work together. Meanwhile, they all establish individual connections to a home’s Wi-Fi network. That leaves the entire system just as vulnerable as one device. Without strong security, cybercriminals have been able to take advantage of these devices to cause mischief.

Hackers are able to spy through cameras, listen in through microphones, and even control certain aspects of a person’s home. Google’s Nest devices are more secure than many competing gadgets, but they aren’t perfect. Earlier this year, a wave of attacks targeted Nest cameras. Last summer, researchers exposed multiple vulnerabilities in the same devices.

Google isn’t alone, though. Amazon’s Ring devices were also targeted recently by hackers using recycled passwords.

Fortunately, there’s a fairly simple solution to securing these devices—two-factor authentication. The option makes users sign in and then confirm their login attempt with a code sent to a predetermined second device (usually their smartphone). Thus, even if a hacker tries to log in with a stolen password (or guesses it correctly) they won’t be able to complete the attempt.

Even so, Google’s addition of Nest devices to the Advanced Protection Program adds “yet another layer of protection” to the gadgets. In an increasingly digital world, there’s no such thing as too much cybersecurity.

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