If your appliances know you're not home—who else does?

The promise of a "smart" home full of devices connected to the Internet is becoming real (aka: the Internet-of-Things or IoT), with recent developments from technology giants including Apple and Google. Even Lowe's and Home Depot are coming to the table with intelligent home systems that are expected to make their way into the family rooms of early adopters and not-so-tech-savvy consumers alike.

Robert Daly | Caiaimage | Getty Images

The added convenience and efficiency of anytime, anywhere control of our thermostat, lights, television, home security and more is alluring. So much so, that the number of "smart" devices is expected to grow to more than four times the number of connected computers and smartphones over the next few years (reaching 26 billion connected devices by 2020). The Internet-of-Things is going to become ubiquitous — and so is the risk that comes with it.

Smarter devices need more protection

Devices collecting information in our most intimate spaces can make us vulnerable. How? By exposing our activities and behaviors — including our location, personal preferences, medical details and more — over the Internet. IoT devices have already been the victims of security attacks, and consumers are beginning to show some anxiety. A recent survey found 7 out of 10 people to be concerned about the security of the Internet-of-Things, and with good reason.

Read MoreRobots are the new butlers at Starwood Hotels

There are currently no policies among device manufacturers or standards from the security industry regulating the safety of connected devices. Without regulation, these gadgets are more susceptible to abuse, infections and more. Furthermore, most consumers don't know how to detect or fix compromised devices. That risk is multiplied when devices are networked to one another and sharing very intimate details about their owners.

What's worse? There are a lot of question marks around how these devices collect personal data, and when, where and how they disclose this information. Privacy safeguards are not clear or consistent. A lack of consumer trust in mobile application providers, whose software enables access to IoT devices, exasperates this concern.

Safe steps to a smarter home

So what can consumers do to reap the benefits of the Internet of Things while minimizing their privacy and security risks?

Do your research. Prior to purchasing a new smart device, be sure to investigate the company security policy and ease with which the product can be updated. If you have any doubts, consider contacting the manufacturer for additional clarification.

Read MoreHow some are making money off the NSA revelations

Protect devices with a password. It may sound obvious, but it's an often overlooked step. It also helps to frequently update passwords and use two-step verification on devices.

Update software. When an update is offered, run it. The new version may include patches to close up recently discovered security holes.

Browse with caution. When accessing the Internet on IoT devices that allow it, don't click on links from unknown senders, and ignore any attempt to lure you with the promise of a deal that seems "too good to be true."

Protect your mobile devices. Smart devices are often controlled by our mobile phones and tablets, so protecting them with all of the above measures will help ensure that smart devices don't get compromised.

Read MoreJustified or not? Outrage over Facebook Messenger

Gary Davis is the chief consumer security evangelist at McAfee, a part of Intel Security. Through a consumer lens, he works closely with internal teams to drive strategic alignment of products with the needs of the security space. Gary also oversees McAfee online safety education to educate businesses and consumers by distilling complex security topics into easily understandable and actionable advice. Follow him on Twitter @garyjdavis.