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Three data security precautions to consider if you rent out your home short-term

Plume Security TeamSafety & Privacy
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Home rental sites like Airbnb can seem like a dream come true for property owners. You can rent out your spare bedroom to earn extra money, rent your whole house while you're away, or even supplement the mortgage on a second home. Airbnb's policies and guidelines allow us to feel comfortable opening up our homes to strangers, but doing so still comes with some risks.

Data privacy precautions

As an Airbnb host, you're likely more worried about preventing wild parties than beefing up your WiFi security. The trouble is that your Airbnb guests could be endangering your data privacy without even knowing it. While malware-infected devices and malicious URLs may not be top-of-mind for you, if your guests connect infected devices to your home network, the network—and your data—becomes vulnerable. So what can you do? Guests expect WiFi access during their stay and good hosts offer it. In order to safeguard your home network and allow guests to browse safely too, you need to take some simple precautions.

Create a unique WiFi password for each guest

When it comes to protecting your data privacy, traditional home WiFi systems do have features to support you, but they may not be obvious and may feel cumbersome to use. For example, if you're using a basic modem-plus-router setup and want to protect yourself, it's possible to create a separate guest network that cordons off all internet activity from your home network. With the existence of this separate network, guests would be able to access the internet. But if they want to connect their phone to your smart TV or print a boarding pass, they wouldn't be able to; all your household devices are on that original network. It's likely that guests would find this situation frustrating. And since most hosts want to ensure the best possible experience for guests, they tend to give everyone their main WiFi network password. This is extremely dangerous from a data security perspective. For one thing, as that password gets around, your secure WiFi becomes much less secure. For another, granting access to your network can compromise your data privacy if any guest devices get infected. Once an infected device is connected, the worm can spread to other devices on your network, putting things like the photos, family videos, or tax files stored on your Network Attached Storage (NAS) device at risk. While creating a separate guest network is certainly better than giving guests access to your main network, it's not foolproof. Once set up, there's a good chance that you'll pick a guest password and never change it. Having any password reused across guests can pose issues; consider the fact that a disgruntled guest can log back into your network any time from a reasonable physical proximity. Fortunately, Plume has developed a smart solution for sharing your WiFi while protecting your data privacy. Our ControlTM service offered through HomePassTM allows you to give each guest a unique password and control what they can access. You can also set passwords to automatically expire or revoke them at any time.

Don't leave internet safety to chance

While you probably download updates to keep your devices secure and know not to click on suspicious links or visit sketchy websites, phishing scams and spam have become so sophisticated that even tech-savvy folks are vulnerable. Many of your guests may be responsible internet users who'd never reply to emails from a wealthy Nigerian prince, but they can still be fooled. Phishing URLs grew by 640 percent in 2019 and one in four malicious URLs were found on good domains. Malicious websites can launch all kinds of attacks from spam to spyware and compromise your data privacy. You can't expect everyone to be safe online, which is why you must protect your network. Traditional antivirus software can help keep devices safe, but you can't control whether your guests use such software. In the last year, for example, there's been a 125 percent increase in malware targeting Windows 7. Not only that, but traditional antivirus solutions can't be installed on Internet of Things (IoT) devices that don't use a browser such as smart doorbells or thermostats. The threat landscape is always changing, and it's a lot to keep up with. That's why GuardTM—Plume's AI security service available through HomePass —offers real-time, intelligent threat protection. Using the power of machine learning to detect threats, Guard blocks harmful connections and protects every device on your network, without requiring any action from you or your guests. The threat database updates constantly as threat responses evolve, which means peace of mind for you.

Practice safe “network hygiene" to guard against infected devices

With all the devices we have now, we rarely consider that there might be a danger in bringing new devices onto our network. However, between your existing connected devices and those that guests add to your WiFi, you may quickly end up with more devices than you can track. IoT devices such as security cameras, smart lights, and smart speakers make our lives more convenient, but they aren't always protected with antivirus software. That, combined with outdated firmware and the use of default passwords, makes them extremely vulnerable to attack. In 2019, cyber-attacks on IoT devices surged by 300 percent. Much like a virus can spread from one person to another, potent malware can travel from device to device. A successful attack on an IoT device can compromise your data security and lead to other devices being hit with denial-of-service (DoS) attacks or ransomware. Even if you don't have any IoT devices of your own, your guests might bring along a WiFi-connected baby monitor or smart speaker to make your place feel like home. Fortunately, the Advanced IoT Protection feature of Guard works to defend your internet-connected devices and your data privacy. It uses AI and machine learning to analyze all the IoT devices on Plume's global network and learn typical behavior for similar devices. Devices that are behaving outside the norm are flagged as suspicious, and Guard will automatically quarantine infected devices so they can't spread malware to other devices in the network. Renting out your space can be an adventurous, smart way to diversify your income, but it requires a few extra precautions to protect your data privacy. The cyber-security landscape is always changing, so it's a good idea to invest in a secure WiFi setup that's constantly evolving to protect you. Learn how all of the Smart Home Services available through HomePass can improve and protect your home network.