Michael & Drayton Saunders
 |  Sarasota Herald-Tribune

During Halloween we embraced feelings of being a little scared – awakening the child in all of us as we danced with the goblins of youth. Some of us visited old friends named Dracula or Frankenstein – while others partook in Suncoast resident Stephen King movie marathons to get their fright on.

All acceptable. A welcomed part of the season.

But today there’s something scarier and more frightening than any horror movie – your home technology could be breached without your knowledge.

Cybersecurity is the practice of defending computers, servers, mobile devices, electronic systems, networks and data from malicious attacks.

If you have not focused on the cybersecurity of your home, you are putting your personal and sensitive information at risk – it’s like your home is being haunted. And like ghosts traveling through walls – your data can end up in the wrong hands.

How do we protect our homes from the nightmare scenarios where criminals are accessing data and devices within people’s homes?

There is good news on how to keep these monsters at bay – according to Charles Willits, Director of Information Technology at Michael Saunders & Company.

“Today, it’s very important that we have an awareness of cybersecurity best practices. We need to change our mindset to one of securing smart-home devices from the get-go,” Willits said.

Whether you have just purchased a home or have lived in your home for years, you can have a cyber-safe home and there are some very simple things we can all do.

Like a builder’s punch list or a list at home inspection, a homeowner needs to be proactive and create an inventory of all the connected devices in the home, as well as obtain the documentation for these devices. It is very important to stay on top of this as technology is becoming more and more advanced.

For a while it was just the thermostat, the garage door opener or the doorbell. But more and more manufacturers are getting into the smart-home space with items such as smart light bulbs and smart refrigerators. While these don’t appear to be threatening – we need to secure them – otherwise we could conceivably give cyber criminals access to the entire home including our home routers where they can then monitor the traffic of the sites we are visiting.

With October being Cybersecurity Awareness Month – Willits echoes the mantra – Do your Part. #BeCybersmart.

“From a home standpoint, the basic necessity is to secure devices or replace them.”

Willits notes the importance of “knowing the devices in your home” and stresses the importance of changing the default password.

Willits recalls a story of how a new homeowner had moved in and “lowered thermostat because it was too hot, but just ten minutes later the thermostat was right back where it was – so they lowered it again. It turned out the previous owner was still using the app that controlled the thermostat, thinking he was changing the temperature in their new home – but was in fact changing it in their old home.”

While it may be a little scary out there – there are two things every homeowner can do to avoid tricks from thieves and make a home more secure that’s a treat to live in.

One – get an inventory of all connected devices in the home.

Two – change the password or replace the devices.

If you take these recommended basic steps, you should be able maintain a secure home for any holiday – and perhaps even prevent the previous owner from changing your TV off from your favorite monster movie.