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However, those same smart home devices have given businesses reason to rethink cybersecurity.

The pluses of adding a smart device to your home were attractive before a pandemic made us all mostly housebound.

As concerns about COVID-19 crawl into the fall and winter, the convenience and cost-savings those products provide may now be more appealing than ever.

For employers with teams working remotely, heightened interest in smart home devices among their staff should be met with some understandable concern. The thought of your company's data being accessed by employees' personal devices is not exactly comforting.

Unfortunately, that uneasiness may up in frequency over the next few months (and years).

BEN SPRADLINGSmart home revenues are now expected to reach $85 billion in 2020 — a four percent jump over last year. And within the next 12 months, more than 80 million U.S. households reportedly intend to purchase a new type of smart home device. By 2026, the smart device market is projected to bring in $317 billion in revenue, up 5% over pre-COVID-19 forecasts.

Pairing those consumer trends with recent employee behavior raises some potentially bright red flags.

Nearly 40% of workers responding to a recent survey said they use personal devices to access corporate data, and more than half revealed they have smart devices connected to their home network. Most alarming is that roughly one-third of respondents revealed they don't have even basic password protection enabled on every device.

Is that scary for employers? Yes. But is it an issue that can be controlled? Also yes. Even better, implementing safeguards to secure any in-home smart devices is a lighter lift than you or your employees might think.

Home networks, for example, are typically an easier target for hackers because personal wireless routers are generally less safe than ones used in offices. Upping the security of those personal devices may be as simple as how users sign in. Encourage remote employees to replace weak or default passwords with unique login information to minimize their vulnerability to hacking.

Replacing an outdated router with a new one also adds an extra line of defense against cyberattacks without a lot of work. If you're a business owner, consider creating a budget allowance specially for helping employees boost any home network needs.

While you can't control which smart devices your employees install in their homes, you can instill some best practices for using those during office hours. For example, Amazon Echo and Google Nest are both powered by voice-controlled features. If your office requires a certain degree of confidentiality, teach your teams when to disable those capabilities and how to do it.

Any best practices you promote within your organization should emphasize product reputation, too. Both you and your employees benefit by choosing smart home products made by established brands with a track record of providing quality protection. Devices made by start-ups or lesser-known brands may be more affordable, but you're usually risking the security of your data.

Utilizing resources like those offered at BBB.org — tools to help identify brands with better marketplace track records – help ensure you aren't sacrificing safety for savings. With remote employees invest more into smart home devices, your company's security vulnerabilities could add up pretty quickly.

Learn more about how your business can improve its cybersecurity practices.


Ben Spradling (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) is the Marketplace Manager for Better Business Bureau Northwest + Pacific.


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