Dark Side of Smart Home Devices; The Creepy Stuffs Homeowners Should Know

  • Oct 23, 2018

Design: Design Chapterz

With the rise of Internet of Things (IoT), the industries for smart home devices flourished. Think smart refrigerators, washing machines, ovens, TVs, door locks and even vacuum cleaners! Soon, an ecosystem of interconnected smart home system (which is essentially a collection of interconnected smart home devices that collect, interpret, communicate and transfer data to fulfil a goal) emerged. In fact, the smart home system has gained huge popularity with homeowners due to its extensive suite of innovative and intelligent services that offer improved energy efficiency, control and ease of use.

The benefits of opting for a Smart Home have been extensively written; they include great convenience through automation which also promises great energy savings. Furthermore, to realize Singapore's Smart Nation Vision, HDB is bringing smart technology to the doorstep of the homeowners literally through the various HDB Smart Enabled Home Initiatives.

Image from Pinterest

Nevertheless, smart home technology also has its dark side too. In fact, not a lot of homeowners realize that going for smart home devices can be potentially risky as well. Hence, we will highlight these 3 main risks in this post.

#1. Security Risks

Do You Know? In Dec 2017, a security bug was found in Apple's HomeKit application, which permitted hackers to unlock the homeowners' doors remotely and gain remote control of the lights and access to the home surveillance cameras too.

Since the IoT industry for smart home devices is still at its infancy stage, a lot of smart home devices are built without taking security into their design considerations. Furthermore, there are no security standards set for them.  This is because, the smart home devices lack the additional power required to execute the security protection due to their limited processing ability and memory ability. As a result, most of the security features are rudimentary and this makes them very susceptible to attacks by hackers. In fact, a security analyst has reported that he was able to hack into most of smart home devices within a matter of minutes!

#2. Privacy Risks

Do You Know?

A Portland family claimed that a private conversation in their home was recorded by their voice-controlled smart speaker (Amazon's Alexa) and sent to a random person in their family’s contact list.

Privacy generally concerns the right to exercise control over personal information. This is where the dilemma lies; smart home devices require huge amount of private, real-time data from homeowners to carry out its daily functions successfully. For instance, smart lighting systems track the movements of the homeowners while smart refrigerators track the eating habits of the family. On the other hand, the homeowners may wish to keep such information private. Once the manufactures or hackers have access to such massive amount of personal data from the various smart home devices, these sensitive data would be able to reveal a lot about the lifestyle of the homeowners. This usually poses security risks since they offer valuable insights on the homeowners.

#3. Obsolescence Risks

Do You Know?

Although Revolv promised "lifetime subscriptions" for buyers of its home automation hub, when it is brought over by Google's Nest Labs, this home automation hub product was discontinued and homeowners are left with a useless product.

Like all technology devices, smart home devices are at risks of being outdated once its manufacturer decides to stop supporting them. When they are obsolete models, the homeowners will no longer be entitled to the firmware and security updates for their smart home devices. This means that homeowners will be extremely vulnerable to security risks when these smart home devices no longer be able to receive security patches. In certain cases, the smart home devices are rendered completely useless when they are discontinued.

Image from Brilliant.tech

What do these risks mean to you?

Here are 3 best practices that you could do to make your smart home devices safer for your family.

#1. Secure your network with hard-wired internet connection

As a Wi-Fi network is much easier to be compromised as compared to a hard-wired internet connection, running cables for all the smart home devices are recommended since this will be more secure than a wireless system.

Case in point? "Wireless networks are generally less secure. There can also be problems with neighbors stealing bandwidth, if the network hasn’t been set up to be password protected. Information is also less secure too and can be easier to hack into."

#2. Always use strong passwords

You should carefully read the user manual that accompanies the smart home device. Always learn to secure the smart home devices with a complex, strong password and never rely the person who is installing the smart home device to set the password for you. This is because the chances are, he or she will leave the username and password as default and unchanged.

Case in point? Home surveillance cameras that are setup with default passwords will allow internet users to view their private video footage.

A strong password should be long and make up of numbers, symbols, capital letters and lower-case letters. Do steer clear from dictionary words and combinations of words. A strong password is especially important when you intend to communicate remotely through the smart home devices. Lastly, never share the same password for more than one smart home device.

#3. Check your configuration settings

Ensure that you never leave the configuration settings as default. In addition, you should make sure that the automatic firmware and security updates for your smart home devices are also enabled.

Case in point? One family learns it the hard way when its internet baby monitor was hacked due to the lack of firmware updates.

Furthermore, always ensure that only a minimal amount of private data is collected. Also, do conduct periodic checks on all these settings to ensure that they are not reset after every firmware update.

#4. Always buy from reputable brands

Lastly, to mitigate risks of purchasing smart home devices that do not have proper product road maps, you should consider buying from big and reputable companies. Such companies usually have a large consumer base which helps to ensure that a product is viable for a reasonable period of time.

Image from Viral Gadgets


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