How to Secure Chromecast
by Naomi Stone
To protect your Chromecast from hacker attacks, you can enable a VPN, use VLAN, set up a network just for yourself, and disable the guest mode. In this article, you'll find useful tips on how to enjoy your streams to the max.
Chromecasts are notorious for their vulnerability to hacking attacks. Your roommate can interfere with your streams just for fun, and malicious third parties might get hold of your private data. Unfortunately, there have been many reports of Chromecasts being exposed to DDoS-like attacks.
If cybercriminals attack your device, they can do much more than just ruin your stream. They can geolocate you, they can get data about your Wi-fi network, and maybe reach other sensitive information as well. Fortunately, you can enhance the security of your Chromecast by following some simple rules.
Never use Guest Mode
At first glance, this might seem a very convenient feature. If there is no Wi-Fi on the premise, you can turn on the Guest Mode on your Chromecast so that it emits a Wi-Fi beacon and connects to a device with a Chromecast-enabled app. To confirm the connection, you need to enter a PIN to a guest device.
However, some users don't know that the player first sends this PIN to the device through an audio tone that can't be perceived by a human ear. You'll need to insert the code manually only in case the audio fails. If there is any malicious device around, it might intercept your code. To avoid this, please disable the Guest Mode in your Google Home app.
Use your own network
Never try to stream via a public network. When using a private one, choose WPA over WEP. If your router works in "Remote Administration" or "Remote Management" mode, turn it off. Also, make sure that your router functions separately and doesn't form a part of a bigger network — this might happen, for example, in an office or a large house. If several routers are connected in a network, the users of all the other routers can get access to your Chromecast data.
In case you have roommates and you all use the same router, you might create a guest network just for yourself if your router permits. You'll be the only person who knows the password to this guest network, which will prevent your roommates from trolling you by intervening in your streams.
Before leaving home, you'd better turn off your router. Some devices feature a convenient Scheduling option.
Normally, your router's firmware should be updated automatically. You can see notifications about it in the app or when you log in to the web-based interface. Please check that your router always has the latest version of the firmware because this minimizes the risk of its vulnerabilities.
The passwords both to your router and your Chromecast should be long and complicated so that a hacker can't brute-force them. If the router allows you to choose between a complex password and a simple PIN, opt for the more elaborate option.
Isolate your devices using a VLAN
VLAN allows you to create isolated networks for your devices and set the rules for exchanging data within these networks. In a nutshell, you can separate your flatmates in a discrete network and use your own one just for yourself. Not all routers support VLAN, and if yours doesse, the set-up process might take some time and effort — but it's worth it.
Enable a VPN
You can't do it directly on your Chromecast, so you'll need to turn a VPN on your router. Like this, all of your internet data will be protected, not just the player. Also, you'll get access to content that is blocked in your country. As soon as you connect the Chromecast to your router, it will be protected automatically.
Which side is the bug on
As you can see, the problem often lies not in the Chromecast itself, but its connection with the router. However, some bugs were previously detected that showcase the vulnerability of the Google gadget.
For instance, hijackers were able to convince Chromecast to disconnect from the network and connect to another one. This happened in a matter of seconds, with the help of a remote control panel. The developers managed to fix this bug, so today this shouldn't be the case.
The rules and nuances of chromecasting might differ depending on which computer you synchronize it with. Before you start your first stream, please read the instruction of how to Chromecast from a Mac if you’re a Mac user and how to set up Chromecast on Windows if you’re a Windows user. This will help you avoid disappointing mistakes.
So far, Google hasn't added to its gadget a simple and intuitive feature of approving the streams. For instance, if you're the registered owner, or if it was you who created the latest stream, you should be able to approve or disapprove the next streaming attempt. Unfortunately, this option doesn't exist yet. Chromecast can still be improved in many ways, and while it remains imperfect, we need to be cautious when using it.
Now you know how to avoid unnecessary risks when streaming multimedia content with Chromecast. If you follow these simple rules, you can prevent third-parties from interfering with your streams and getting hold of your sensitive data. Chromecast is an amazing device, but it's been relatively new to the market. Over time, the developers will considerably improve its security level.
About the Author
Naomi Stone ("https://twitter.com/Naomi99Stone") is a cybersecurity enthusiast and Mac aficionado. She is passionate about covering topics like Mac cybersecurity, Mac tips & hacks, Mac’s how-to guides. She is a contributor to Cyber Experts and Cybers Guards.