This blog was written by an independent guest blogger.
Over 250,000 people in the US live off the grid, meaning they do not rely on public utilities such as electricity and water. Their aim is generally to live more independently and self-sufficiently, rely on solar or other eco-friendly technologies, and build a stronger connection with nature. However, most people who choose this lifestyle are very much reliant on the Internet. Over 4.7 million people work remotely at least part-time in the US, and most need to keep in touch with clients and colleagues via the Internet. Online connections are also key for security systems and communication. If you are living off-grid, what cybersecurity risks could you be exposed to and how can you avoid them?
Off-grid and on the move
Those who live off-grid in RVs usually rely on one of two sources of power to connect to the Internet. One is their cell phone, which can be used as a wireless hub. Another is via Satellite, which is generally more costly, but which guarantees Internet access regardless of where the user is (except for underground surfaces, of course). Regardless of the system users choose, they should follow a variety of measures—including using strong passwords, relying on fingerprint logins, using only authorized or well-reputed apps, disabling location services when these are unnecessary, using remote wiping software, backing up their phone often and keeping their software updated.
Cyber vulnerabilities in security systems
Because RV users change the place they call ‘home’ often, many install mobile home security cameras. These can have handy features like panic buttons, night vision, motion detectors and alerts, and similar. Quality systems usually have cloud storage, which allows for live view and playback. However, security systems have specific cyber vulnerabilities—including human error, outdated systems, and poor maintenance. If you live in an RV, invest in device lifecycle management and be proactive with respect to maintenance. Install updates when the manufacturer makes them available, secure the entire network (including devices) your security system supports, and have strict access policies in place.
Risks faced by homes with solar energy
If you are relying on solar energy for your online needs, you can be attacked by cybercriminals in a similar fashion to if you relied on fuel-based energy. In the past, this risk was much smaller for solar energy, since very few systems were deployed and most solar inverters (which convert direct current electricity to alternating current electricity) did not communicate for monitoring purposes. However, as more solar power is installed and inverters become more sophisticated, the data of inverters can be hacked and manipulated. Therefore, it is vital to keep the software that controls your inverter updated and safe.
Different layers of protection
Security software alerts you if there is any abnormal behavior though in reality, keeping your system safe against hackers involves various ‘layers’ of protection. In addition to installing anti-virus software in components like inverters, you should also install anti-virus protection on the firewalls and servers that integrate your solar energy into the wider system of grid operation. You can also control who has access to your system, either physical or online.
A quarter of a million people in the US live off the grid, with some using renewable energies to power their homes and others relying on their cell phone or satellite. Those living on solar energy can face attacks to their inverters and other systems. Those in RVs, meanwhile, can be vulnerable to equipment such as security systems. Updating software, maintaining systems proactively, and using various layers of prediction can all help off-grid residents enjoy the benefits of the Internet while keeping their devices and data safe against attacks.